"In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks."
John Muir

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Flying south

Today I wish to tell you a story as old as time. The sound and sight of it brings my emotions to the raw edge and I grow melancholy at the telling.

Today the path looks like this.

But a few weeks ago, 13 to be exact, the grass was green and days long and warm in Fairbanks.
The fields near my "summer home" (one apartment dwelling in a large complex) were rich and lush. I am very much blessed to be living in such a place that all I do is walk out my door and onto the many paths that wind through the woods, the edge of the fields, and around a large pond. Lots of birds were gathering.

Creamer's Field was once a dairy that is now a thriving bird sanctuary. Early in the summer a few Sandhill Cranes arrive to mature and grow strong on the oats and grains planted especially for them.

As the long days passed, more cranes arrived. What a noisy reunion they shared. Their sound is a deep, croaking chirp. (That is a crazy description, I know, but I can't figure out how to put the sound into words. You just have to be there, I guess. Then you can do a better job describing the sounds of these Sandhill cranes.)

Cranes and migrating Canada geese spent the hours contentedly eating, resting, and visiting.

As the days gradually shortened, the crowds grew to hundreds. Recently they seemed anxious and edgy, strutting around on their long legs. They are quite large birds, probably standing 3 feet or more when their necks are erect. They flew around in wide circles more often, strengthening their wing muscles, no doubt.

Maybe they'd read the signs posted around the observation areas or the clock God placed deep within them chimed. Somehow they knew it was TIME.
As this sign says, the journey they venture on consists of thousands of miles, mountains and dangers. (How well I know!)

Well, one day they were noisily prancing, flying and chattering.
The next day they were gone. Silence.
I had visited the fields nightly, anticipating their departure yet wanting them to stay. I watched them fly overhead each evening to their sleeping grounds and then the other morning they didn't come back to the fields. They were on their way to west Texas.

The Canada geese are still here, thank goodness. But they, too, are warming up for their trip to Washington and Oregon.

100's of them fly overhead every evening and I counted at least 50 in most wedges. They fly in dozens of groups for 1-2 hours and the sound of the honking in the deepening sky tugs on my heart. It is the sound of late autumn in New York--chilly evenings, woodsmoke, hearty soups on the stove, adding blankets to the beds and mulch to the garden.
Close your eyes and recall that haunting sound in the still and dim evening sky. Does it give you chills like it does me?

So far these geese have flown back to the fields early each dark morning as I am getting ready for work. I sigh happily as I hear them returning for yet another day. Maybe I will fly out before they do for I, too, am heading south in 2 days.

P.S. Don't stop checking the blog, however, for I have lots more thoughts and pictures to share in days to come.

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