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Turkeys take things in increments: So the humans are moving toward the bird feeder? Well let’s amble over to the grapes.
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST RUTH FARMER
“Did you see that?” I exclaim in wonder. My terriers are too busy snuffling in the clover and grass to care what I’m talking about. We have emerged from the cornfield frantically following a trail that only they can smell. Whishing through stalks and tripping on stumps, we move ever faster. They are leashed because they have a tendency to dash off.
I could catch up to one quarry-focused, oblivious terrier, but never two; hence the leashes that tangle and impede this day’s walk.
I suspect that they are tracking our new neighbors, whom I’ve just caught sight of. I am wearing one of their feathers in my hair, which I wrested from the growly jaws of Denver. She and her sister missed the most essential aspect of this outing, so busy with noses to ground, they didn’t see their quarry.
But I did.
Sitting in the grass, three feet away, is a turkey. The shape of her featherless beige head suddenly emerges distinct from the aging flora into which she has settled her brown, feathered body. It is a cooler than normal September afternoon, and the dogs and I have dashed through fields, led by the myriad smells that propel them toward the hen four feet in front of us.
When I realize what I am looking at, I hold firmly to the dogs’ leashes and step back. The hen is in a frozen tableau for a moment. Then, she propels upward headed, east, then south. She is followed by four bodies no taller than eight inches, taking flight headed east together.
“Oh,” I gasp for I’ve never seen baby turkeys in flight. Suddenly, two more fling themselves after their siblings. Within seconds, all have disappeared.
Instinct designed to align with real life necessity
I pull the dogs in a wide circle away from where I last saw the birds. I do not want them disturbed further. Denver spotted the two stragglers but seems less moved by them than I am. A brief tug on the leash as she looks up is her only response. Phoebe never seemed to notice them.
These birds are our new neighbors. Every year, we are surrounded by turkeys. This year, however, a family has found sanctuary close to the house. One morning, I saw the mother sitting in the rain on the edge of the lawn on the north side of our property. As I watched, what I thought was her fat body proved to be two babies huddled next to her. On another day, two adults strolled behind the house pecking at sunflower seeds, and blackberries, and grapes. They sauntered into the corn when they felt my persistent study of their actions.
Turkeys have a way of floating across the landscape as though they have no place in particular to go. Their energy is casual, as though life is a peaceful stroll. When they try to cross the busy road here, I am on edge. Will one of them get hit by a thoughtless, too busy, driver? As an acquaintance pointed out when I mentioned this, “They can fly.”
Yet, so often they do not because it isn’t necessary.
A style that’s all turkey: casual, and purposeful, too
Turkeys take things in increments: So the humans are moving toward the bird feeder? Well let’s amble over to the grapes. The dogs are trotting toward the grapes? The blackberries over there look yummy and the corn on the other side looks good, too. Let’s go there. These movements never appear to be retreats; yet, that is the purpose they serve: to gain distance from imminent harm.
On a previous walk, the dogs and I flushed out a turkey by accident. I heard a noise at about the same time as Denver and Phoebe. Phoebe dashed into the pin cherries; and I peered into the shadows. Suddenly with a fierce fluttering, a large turkey flew past leaving the dogs tugging in futile pursuit.
The family in the field didn’t move until they absolutely had to do so, until we were too close for them to feel safe. Seeing the seven of them take off like that – soundlessly, swiftly, one moment unseen in the grass, the next moment vanishing on the wind – I considered that flight is a survival strategy.
Yes, turkeys can fly, when flight is the only choice.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.