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.