Poems & Essays

11 May

Flying in Circles

General/Column 2 Responses

Very near to where I live, for a certain portion of the year, there is a little flock of little birds that flies in low, fast, continuous, little circles– and it just doesn’t seem to make any sense. I wonder why they do this – go round and round, over and over, day after day.

I don’t know what type of birds they are or why they do what they do. I like to think that there is a reason, an actual purpose behind their actions, even though it might not be immediately apparent. The birds never go far – it is a limited area, confined by invisible boundaries — though they always seem to be in a frantic hurry to get somewhere. Of course, despite their persistence, they never actually get there.

The birds fly their circles, above a corner gas station, in between my house and our local YMCA. This is the other direction from my son Jonah’s elementary school, but along the same main road. I spend quite a lot of time driving on this road.

A typical day goes something like this — get up and get dressed, eat breakfast, make kids’ lunches, hug, kiss, and wave good-bye to Joshua as he leaves for middle school on his bike, and then the same to husband as he leaves for work in his car, and then again to Jonah after I drive him to school. Next, drive to the Y, exercise, and drive home. Shower, work, do laundry, wash dishes, eat lunch. Drive to pick up Jonah from school. Drive home. Supervise homework, snacks and music practice. Discuss school day with kids. Drive boys to swim practice at the Y. Drive to nearby grocery store, shop for groceries. Drive home to drop off food. Drive back to Y to pick up kids. Drive home. Make dinner for family. Eat dinner with family. Ensure kids get to bed at a reasonable hour. Kiss the kids goodnight. Watch some TV. Kiss husband. Go to sleep.

This typical day routes me by the circling birds no less than 6 times, and sometimes more – because there are often additional places that I need to go such as meetings, errands or volunteer work, and of course there are band practices or friends’ houses to which the kids also need to be driven. As a result of everything, I am constantly pressed for time, rushed, and feeling frazzled.

My neighbor, who is older than I, and never had kids, comments that she always sees me, constantly going in and out, back and forth, day after day, and wonders how I keep up with everything. I see other women my age, driving mini-vans with kids in their back seats along the same main road, and wonder, do any of them notice those birds up there?

Each time I drive by the birds, I consider looking for an actual, scientific explanation for why they might be flying in circles. I could call the Audubon Society easily enough. Or buy a book on bird behavior. Or even google this phenomenon. But, in the end, I never do any of those things.

Instead, I simply go in and out, drive back and forth, and watch the birds go round and round — over and over, day after day. It is with much fascination for their boundless and vital energy, along with a certain amount of disdain for their apparent lack of destination, that I continue to watch the birds fly in quick, never-ending, little circles.

Lisa Pawlak is a San Diego based freelance writer and mother of two boys. She is a regular contributor to Carlsbad, Orange Coast, Hawaii Parent and San Diego Family magazines — and has also published with Working Mother. Lisa’s personal essays can be found in Coping with Cancer magazine, the Christian Science Monitor and in six anthologies of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Additional essays will be soon be available in Greenprints, The Story Behind the Recipe and How to Survive Tantrums and Babysitters.




Copyright @ 2015 by Lisa Pawlak

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  1. Melanie

    January 11, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    There is something so beautiful, yet sad about this piece… I can relate on every level. I just wanted to share my feelings with you that this is beautiful.

  2. Geoffrey

    January 20, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    There is a flock of birds which I can see out of my bedroom window. They’ve been circling for more than two hours and have done so for the past fortnight. I’m beginning to think they’re building up their wing muscles for a migratory flight.


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