Destinations Magazine

Unexpected Experience

By Colleen Brynn @ColleenBrynn


I’m reminded of the time Kathy wanted me to hold warm bread. Not because the experience was similar in nature, but similar in sentiment.

It was like stopping to smell the flowers or watching a sunrise. It was a blessed moment, one I was altogether unprepared for as I heard the sound whistle by.

I stopped, wondering what it was.

Looking around me, there was nothing but canyon views, backed by the La Sal mountain range. The day was easily 35-40C and not a tickle of wind floated by. I could see no immediate explanation for the sudden zip of sound that broke through my always boisterous and stubborn self-talk.

Then, there it was again. That sound. There was something mechanical about it, something metal and calculated about it.

A flash of black.

A bird!

It was a bird. It was many birds. They punctured the air and dove, disappearing as quickly as they had blasted into my line of sight.


The swallows dipped and spun and made my stomach flop as they hurled their tiny bodies around the edge of the open canyon, just past where I was walking.

And what I felt, what I experienced then, was something I scrambled in my mind to try to describe. I had no words. Simply, it was the sound of the birds flying. But it was more than that.

That is the challenge of the writer, isn’t it? Describe the indescribable.

I stood and watched as they soared past, some coming within arms length, so fast that by the time I realized they were near me, they were already plunging over the canyon’s lip.


The sound came each time they passed. A slicing of the air, slightly reminiscent of an airplane overhead. Or, if the birds’ wings were samurai swords, the air was cool glacier water. Yet, the sound was more delicate than this, despite the slicing, the precision, the confidence of their movements.

Their wings whistled, or the air did, protesting their defiant flight, porous bones allowing them to ignore the rules of gravity. They tucked and spun and changed direction so quickly, it was nearly impossible to follow.

Suddenly, I knew what this was, this sound…

It was a marriage between bird and sky, and I’d never heard it before in such a pure form. It was as if the very feathers of the birds were splicing the molecules of air, filtering and scattering them.

For the first time in my life, I heard the sound of air. This, I thought, is what air sounds like.


All photos from Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

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