First day of autumn

Frederick, Maryland. September 23, 2014.

It’s the first day of autumn. As the day comes to a close, a starling settles on a utility wire stretched above a suburban mall. Within minutes, dozens—then hundreds—more arrive and take their seats on the line. Suddenly, footlights of red and gold light up the sky, and the show begins. New flocks appear and dance for the gathered audience. They sweep across the sky in unified black waves—rising, dipping and weaving in perfect unison—to raucous approval from the crowd. Too soon, the footlights dim and purple clouds pull a curtain across the celestial stage. Performers and audience exit together, ushered by night over the far horizon.