There’s one Sunday every year that breaks my heart. It’s the last Sunday of the summer, and here in
They’re leaving. Great lines of them – some in aerodynamic V-formation, some in straight lines, some in patterns that might best be described as disorganized, a few in couples or straggling solo – fly directly over our house on their way south. “South” is relative; some geese head for
There are days when hundreds, even thousands fly their routes, and I’ll hear them in ten or twenty minute intervals. On this, the last Sunday of summer, I’ll go outside every time they pass. I look up, I scan the sky. There are so many leaves still on the trees this year that it’s hard to spot the birds; their calls echo off the ridge we live on and I can’t tell which way to look. Eventually though they’re right overhead in a big open patch of sky. This morning the sun was rising when I heard the first group and the bodies of the geese were lit from below and shone. It was an orderly contingent, row after row of V’s, like a parade, and although there were probably only two hundred their calls echoed for several minutes, bouncing off the ridge and back, as though the sky were full, for miles, of honking birds. Closer to earth, the local birds were more active than usual. I don’t know if they’re agitated or inspired by the calls of the geese, or if they hear them at all. But the trees were being stitched, it seemed, by dozens of robins and cardinals and the occasional crow. Seeds from the black cherry tree fell like rain drops – I could see them being released, landing in the grass, bouncing off the garage roof – and on the driveway I found a composition that included two red feathers, hundreds of maple leaves, and small round white cherry stones that looked like punctuation.
Every summer, on this Sunday, I wonder what it is exactly that calls to me when those geese head south. I have felt it since girlhood, feel it only when I hear the geese in autumn or when I stand at the edge of the sea. Maybe it’s some combination of mortality and urgency. Maybe it’s just the recognition of beauty.
Maybe someday I will categorize every subtlety of longing and gratitude that I can isolate. But today, I listen to the geese. I go outside, I look up. And they are there.