Light Under Their Wings

It was 6:59 and my alarm hadn’t gone off as scheduled.  Today is garbage and recycling day and I hopped to it.  Everything out to the curb before the trucks roll by at 7:30 or so.  Focus … empty small garbage baskets into the big can, yank the clear bag full of fine white paper out of its holder (Heavy!), newspapers into a plastic bag, search for any recyclables and plop them into their appropriate bin, huge garbage bag out of the can, replace bag, empty small bag in garage into the big one, replace bag, slap on a sticker showing that I’m a legitimate taxpayer, one blue box inside the other and carry them out to the road, heave ho the fine paper bag out to the same location, try to be quiet as I roll our grey plastic garbage can (with the raccoon-proof lid) to join the others … There!  Done.

What’s next?  Well, pick up the morning paper from our mailbox, of course.  And while you’re out here, why not get the backyard feeders out of the shed and hang them for the birdies?  Okay, oriole one is up.  Walking with the hummer one towards its hook, thinking of coffee (Tea is for expansive days).

And then … I looked up.  The sky was full of seagulls flying right over our house, from the front yard to the back, coming from their overnight sojourn on Port Stanley beach to eat I don’t know what in the fields around St. Thomas.  I glanced up for a few moments and then dropped my eyes to the task at hand.  Until the voice inside said “Stop.  Put down the feeder.  Watch the birds.”  So I did.

The morning sun hadn’t touched our backyard grass, but it was animating the bellies and wings of my silent friends.  And it was silent.  Nary a flapping sound among the bunch of them.  Inside, I stopped as well, letting the flow of hundreds of birds wash over me.

I looked to the south to some big old deciduous trees on the horizon.  Seagulls kept appearing from behind those trees.  I saw one arrow shape of ten birds.  How cool.  Then there were lots of folks floating along in twos and threes.  But also the occasional one flying alone.  I wondered about them.  Did they want the freedom of a solitary flight, not having to make conversation?  Or did they pine for companionship, wishing that somebody would say “Hi”?  I don’t know.  They didn’t say.

I wanted there to be a minute when the sky was empty, so that I could anticipate the next convoy, but it never came.  Always there were birds, revealing themselves over the southern trees, showing me their colours, and then disappearing to the north, over the maple in our backyard.  I thought of an individual seagull – first they weren’t there, then they were, then they weren’t again.  But even if I could no longer see a certain feathered one, their bird essence was imprinted on my sky.  Nobody can ever take that away.

After five or ten minutes of being aloft, I picked up the hummer feeder and walked to its hook.  Slowly.

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