A pair of geese has found the marsh out in our pasture
They walk with their proud heads held high
Looming larger than coyotes
Specs of movement to catch our attention in the ever familiar landscape
The horses lift their heads to see
Then turn away indifferent
No fear, no threat, the geese belong.
Finding their way along the thawing ground
Among the patchwork quilt of snow drifts and mud
Grazing I suppose on the brown tufts of last year’s grass
Preparing to sit, hatch and care for their young.
Others of their kind
Fly in air over head in the early morning hours
As I make my way to the barn to feed our stock.
Crossing the pale lit sky above in pairs
Honking to a rhythm of flapping wings
A communication I don’t quite comprehend
To keep them together or to keep them apart?
In the big wide mountains they call home for half the year.
Their sound is not for me to hear
Of no concern of theirs that I am here
To witness them and all the birds
That have returned to the high mountain
To quickly hatch their offspring
In this safety of a peaceful and providing land
Before the onslaught of the human kind arrive.
Who would guess
Spring is such a noisy season?
After the dormant still silent peace of winter now
With rivers and creeks roaring full force
Brown waters gushing down every crevasse and rivulet
As the snow from the high county sloughs off
Battered by the growing intensity of the sun
A distant rumble of continual thunder
Rocks released from the thawing slopes
Tumbling down the mountain each afternoon.
And the birds, oh the birds, who come here
With the first signs of longer days and budding branching
Do they too find this mountain so beautiful a place?
A short pocket of time to allow them just enough to pair and nest
And find a place away from the summer crowds to raise their young
And prepare them for the inevitable long flight south
All in the short warmer season of the high country
They come and they go.
This morning the mountain is a haven existing only for the birds
Sun over the mountain to the east meets the exposed dirt
Touched by Midas granting instant warmth and light and life
The sky is speckled like confetti with flocks of birds soaring in the rising drafts,
Then lighting all at once on a group of naked aspen
Branches fine and lacy as if sketched by pencil
Decorating their unclothed branches.
We have learned to tell time by the birds
The season’s heralders bringing their song to the once still landscape
Starting with the redwing black bird always first to the big spruce beside our cabin
Followed by the nuthatch, the black bird, the junco, the sparrow.
And as the snow gives way to dirt, so return the snipe and mourning dove
Then suddenly the air is filled with song as the robin and bluebirds announce their return.
Mating rituals, nesting, feeding,
Movements and meaning based on instinct
That which brings them back to the same place on the same mountain year after year
How do they know? How do they remember?
How do they find their way?
All this effort
Bringing them back home
Season after season
Miles and miles of flapping their wings against with wind and weather
Do they question what it’s all for
Or do they just survive?