I hadn’t read any Helen Macdonald before I came across this essay in the Times Magazine about swifts. The writing is astonishingly good–a mix of science, research, memoir, and meditation. It all hangs together so well it was hard to pull out a quote, kind of like just humming the tune of a Bach fugue and leaving out all the rest of it, but this is from near the end:
…surely some of us are required, by dint of flourishing life and the well-being of us all, to look clearly at the things that are so easily obscured by the everyday. To take time to see the things we need to set our courses toward or against; the things we need to think about to know what we should do next. To trust in careful observation and expertise, in its sharing for the common good. When I read the news and grieve, my mind has more than once turned to vesper flights, to the strength and purpose that can arise from the collaboration of numberless frail and multitudinous souls.
It’s not that long, so give it a read: The Mysterious Life of Birds Who Never Come Down (I think the Times editor got their hands on the title for the web; I believe this is actually the first essay in her next book Vesper Flights and is titled as such in the book.)