Saturday, October 03, 2009

Day of Wings

This has been a day of wings. Even before the sun had a chance to burn through the dawn mist, flocks of Canada geese made their noisy way over my cottage. I stood on the doorstep in the cool, damp air and listened to what I could not see—dozens of pairs of beating wings.

The geese are gathering on the pond across the road, feeding and resting and greeting each other after a summer of breeding and raising their young. There are hundreds of them. They rise from the pond on beating wings and splash down again, ducking their heads beneath the water. In the mornings they leave for other ponds, and for fields of cut corn, gleaning spilled kernels to nourish themselves for their flight south. Late in the afternoon and into the early evening they return, great vees of them clamoring and honking, filling the sky with their indecipherable handwriting.

Later in the morning, as I was deadheading the last of the geraniums and clipping the rose bushes, I heard a commotion in the top of the huge cherry tree. Blackbirds were gathering there and as I watched, hundreds more settled into the surrounding locusts and pines, all squawking and chirping until my ears were full of the sound. Then, at some signal I could not decipher, the hundreds rose as one, and the sound of their wings was like a huge secret whispered to the sky.

The cheerful morning wake-up, wake-up of summer birdsong has been absent now for a month or more. The little birds that winter over, the chickadees, a few starlings, the juncos and nuthatches, twitter from roadside bushes and the branches of the lilac near my door, but morning music is now the province of the crows and the jays. The crows congregate in family groups, shouting news to one another across the yard or from high in the pine branches. The jay’s call is strident, a sound that cuts through the warm stillness of late afternoon like a squeaky porch swing.

It won’t be long before the sound of wings is gone. The Indian Summer days will pass too quickly, and before we know it, the still, cold days of early November will give way to rain and then to blustery winter winds. Instead of wings, the air will be filled with the whisper of snowflakes. But while the golden days last, I will stand on the doorstep in the dawn and listen to wings I can’t see. I will hoard the sounds of blackbird and goose, of crow and jay, to play back in the deep of December.


PhilipH said...

Pauline, your prose is poetic and your photos embellish the words.

We get large skeins of geese flying over our cottages here in Scotland. Quite amazing sights they are too, sometimes akin to a ghost squadron made up of a single V bomber.

The distances they cover is staggering too; fabulous strength and endurance they have.

Brian Hayes said...

As PhilipH points out, you write fine yarns, but thank you, I'd never thought of a glyph of geese wingwriting the sky.

Anonymous said...

If you don’t mind, I think I will just stop here and rest for awhile. It’s such a beautiful place you have made for us and I’m very weary from my journey.

Barbara said...

The idea of birds migrating hundreds, even thousands, of miles still blows me away. I keep marveling at their internal GPS and the fact that they never seem to take a year off. Wouldn't you love to know how they make their plans to come and go and what they talk about while gliding for endless hours in the sky?

steven said...

wow pauline - what beautiful writing and pictures that amplify the words! the image of the seepods bursting in front of the water is stunning!! i'll drop by later for another refill on this!!!! steven

focusfinder said...

Cool blues.

Jo said...

What a beautiful post. You are a lovely writer.

I miss the summer morning birds, too and most of all I miss the morning seagulls. For some reason, seagulls sound like summer, and sailing and blue skies. Seagulls love to party on summer mornings, they tell each other jokes and then laugh uproariously. I do miss them.

Sky said...

so lovely. coming here to read is always so joyful. it is finding a beautiful gift wrapped in stunning images all there for my taking. thank you!

the snow geese are arriving in north WA early, i hear, about 90 mins away where they will spend their winter. i had never seen anything like the blizzard of geese we saw last spring before they departed as they always do for russia and arctic winds.

Paul said...

Must be so wonderful to be in regular touch with nature. We're in the process of losing so much of that...

Fog is so great!

Molly said...

And here the best is yet to be!

Pauline said...

Philip - thank you :) I'm working on the photographs. More turn out poorly than turn out but I solve that by taking lots!

Brian - I'm always looking for new ways to say old things ;)

Cyber, stay as long as you like!

Barbara - would that I could speak bird!

Steven, thank you!

B - I am always surprised at what the camera reflects back to me!

Jo - the ducks at the farm behind me are the jokesters here

What a lovely thing to say, Sky - thank you!

Paul - I make it part of every single day

Molly - always and over and over, the best...

Land of shimp said...

It is the time of "Honkers and Quackers" as my husband's family puts it. Far less elegant phrasing than you are using, but both make me smile.

It is amazing to me how much the world around us contains. We're surrounded by the many universes of creatures everywhere. After all, passing overhead, what do we look like to the geese, and isn't that like a view into another universe? Or the plants going to seed, it looks so simplistic, but it is a complex series of events. A little, growing universe.

The other thing my husband says, as he looks around and notices all these things, as he is prone to do, "Nice world you've got here." Indeed.

Lovely post, Pauline. Are you much of a Thomas Hardy fan? He has a very flowing, lyrical style of description.

Pauline said...

Haven't read Thomas Hardy in years but thanks for the comparison :)

I love honkers and quackers!