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March 13, 2008

Les oies sauvages

Posted in: Mrs. Bella Bang

Mrs. Bang and I just got back from a walk.

I’ve been feeling low for the past few days — I’m alone in the house for a couple of weeks (through the 28th or thereabouts), and my sleep schedule is still in the wild adjustment period that happens when my usual source of “go sleep now” reminders is out of town. Last night I made my way up to bed around 4:30, read for a bit, took a long time to drop off and woke up at 10. It’s not that I don’t need the sleep; my body just isn’t very good about telling me when it’s time to close up shop for the night… and I just walk around seeing the world a few shades grayer the next day. My thoughts get more easily tangled, I’m forgetful, and I’m more likely to plan my day poorly… which tends to lead to staying up late again. Anyway.

We stepped out the door just a bit after sunset, and we’d already walked across the square before I stopped and looked around.

Everything was washed clean by the rain of the past few days, and the sky was glowing and mottled with light: heavy-bottomed rain clouds under-lit across one horizon with strips of color at the bottom where the sun had gone down, patches of white/gray and bits of blue sky darkening on the other. Vivid green hills rolling off into the forest, down below us.

We started walking, and slowed to a stop again. There was an enormous V of birds coming towards us, flying in below the clouds, calling to each other. I counted out ten at the front of the formation and tried extrapolating out to guess the number — getting to about 300 before giving up; the V split again at one end, formed another V, and I couldn’t see the end of that line.

I’ve seen flocks of Canada geese flying overhead where I grew up in NY, but never so many at a time, and their cries were completely different; these birds weren’t honking — this call was higher-pitched and softer, with a lazy burble in the middle. It was beautiful, all of it.

We walked our usual loop while dusk settled. As we got back into town, we paused by the gate of a middle-aged couple I’ve only spoken to once or twice in the past; they were standing outside watching as another flock passed overhead, clearly audible but hard to pick out again the sky now.

They smiled and greeted us, so I stopped to ask: what birds are these?

C’est les oies sauvages — the wild geese.  Seeing them passing, the migration, means that spring is arriving.  We stand still and listen to them call to each other.

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