Arrival of the birds

Santa Cruz (1)

In an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still P Yier

I met another armadillo. It came to the crochet fox. The fox was sniffed, nudged, but finally it must have been taken as an inedible creature, since the armadillo reluctantly minced towards nearby bushes. I followed the animal, hoping to see another mating dance, but nothing of the kind happened. The armadillo just glanced at me, then it hid in thorny bushes and did not come in sight any more.

Then I met three ostriches. Two of them were alive, leaned over one dead comrade. They stood almost symmetrically on both sides of the unmoving body. Their bowed necks almost touched each other, forming a black heart-shaped outline that clearly fitted in that brownish background of the scorched landscape.

I stopped pretty close and took out my camera, but then the ostriches raised their little heads and began to flee. Not in such an ordinary sort of way, to which I got accustomed, but there was a kind of madness in their run, desperate frenzy and wild excitement, contrasting with that calm stretch of the Patagonian desert, which remained at a complete, virtual standstill.

One of the birds finally stopped, but the second jumped over a spiky fence and ran away, as if it was performing a demonic dance. It was running like crazy to the west, towards some misty mountain peaks, until it faded somewhere far away, surrounded by the remote rocky hills, undulating on the horizon.

I went to that dead ostrich. I took it from the road, wondering if I should dig a hole and bury it, but then I thought about another birds, and about armadillos, cause the latter do not mind carrion either. So, I left the body. I always felt sorry for ostriches. That they are birds, but cannot fly. Even if they try, they look like a running clumsy trunk without hands. And there was that ostrich on the road, no longer able to fly, nor even run. Nothing.

I was cycling south, enjoying the landscape and the wind, still pushing me forward, enjoying the last, several days, which remained to finish the trip. It did not even matter that the wind changed its direction and started blowing so hard that it took off my cap and although I instantly turned around to catch it, I could not see it. As if it had gone forever. Literally, the wind took my cap away, and I could not find it anywhere. It flew away.

The most interesting thing about that cap was that I found it in very similar circumstances, but on the other side of the world. I saw it on the roadside, picked it up, put it on my head and so it stayed. Or maybe it was the cap that found me? The wind placed it at my foot, blew it in with a blast, or perhaps its breath was enough…

I took a fancy to that cap very much so. It protected me from the sun, it hid my ears, and suddenly, the wind took it away and although I was walking around for a long time (which, after all, did not have any sense, because there was nothing but desert around me) the cap disappeared.

And then it occurred to me that maybe there was a purpose in it. The cap hid itself deliberately. It spent well over fifteen thousand miles on my head and then it thought: I’d like to dwell in that new countryside. In Patagonia. And who knows, maybe a hairy armadillo will find it and will take the cap to its lair. It will pad its burrow with my cap and then they will live together to the end of time. Or maybe another traveler (one of those who cycle north) will find it and take it back to the States? Such a simple cap, and, you see, what the high life it is living! It seems to have more life in itself than many human creatures on earth.

I’m not going any further, I feel cold on my head, I do not want to rummage in my panniers in that biting gusty wind, looking for another cap. Truly, I feel somehow weighed down and dispirited. Although it will certainly be possible to substitute it for another one. And anyway, it wasn’t me who got rid of it – it was the cap itself, who ran off. Or the wind took it. Or maybe its breath was enough…

I put up my stuff, eat dinner, stretch out the sleeping mat in front of the tent, lie down on it, look at the stars, fall asleep. A small ostrich came to me in my dream. I dreamed of a flying ostrich, which was wearing my cap. I ran after it and tried to catch it. Give it back to me! – I yelled, but the bastard was fast and agile, and although I tried hard I could not snap it.

The cap was too big for the ostrich. It covered the whole of its head. Then the other ostriches ran up, all in caps – thousands, millions of ostriches in the same peaked caps, and I was wondering which is the real, which is mine.

I set my sights on one small bird and ran after it and I almost had it, almost grabbed it by the neck. But when I was really close and nearly felt the bird, the ostrich flapped its wings and soared into the air, along with the rest. And millions of ostriches in peaked caps flew into the sky, flying, winged ostriches, soaring creatures from my dreams, Patagonian dreams of endless road – the road full of sunshine and millions of birds, doing their mating dance above my head. Performing their dance to which one day, a lost, soaring bird in a baseball cap will ask me to join.

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