|Eldest son and me three years ago along the Pacific Coast.|
It hung in the air, its jeweled throat sparkling, and watched me. It's wings hummed as it helicoptered not two feet form my face. Then with a high chirp and a burst of energy it flew up and away. There have been hummingbirds at the feeder and sipping from the bee balm growing beneath it for the past few weeks. Usually I watch them from the window but this one seemed determined to greet me as I stood in the open doorway. Perhaps he was saying goodbye and thanks, for I will be leaving soon and when I get back the hummers will be gone.
Not two minutes later a slender goldfinch landed atop the shepherd's crook that holds the hummingbird feeder. It's not the first bigger bird that's perched there. Yesterday a grackle made a bumpy, awkward landing, looked about as though lost, and flew off again in a welter of sun-flicked feathers. The goldfinch surveyed the rudbeckia in the patio garden and then dropped down among the tall green stems to pick at the tufted flower heads. Some of the little yellow finches winter over here but they stay well hidden. I won't see them en masse again until next summer.
Two nights ago, as I sat in the gazebo at my brother's house reading, a movement caught my eye. I looked up to see scores of little birds bobbing their way across the sky. Great sweeps of them came, 20 or 30 to a bunch, and the flocks went by for some minutes. I estimated about 500 birds passed me before the shimmery dusk melted into darkness. Flocking birds are among the first signs of the changing season.
I am leaving next week for Oregon and a reunion with my two sisters and my eldest son who live out there. When I return to the cottage, autumn will have come. The gardens will be well into retirement, the flowers will have shed their petals and faded to buff colored stalks. The vegetable garden, already bereft of harvestable vegetables, will need cleaning up. Mornings will be chilly, and evenings - sweater weather. No singing birds will wake me. It will be the masses of geese and ducks returning to the pond that will call at dusk, and the jays and crows that serenade my afternoons.
But I will have new stories to tell, of the great forests, the high desert of eastern Oregon, of steep cliffs and glacial lakes and the wild, windy beaches of the coast. Wait for me.