Christmas Day, 2010: A magical moment

I made French toast from the leftover loaf of coarse bread on Christmas morning.  Everyone gathered in the kitchen and took turns eating at the small table as the toast came out of the skillets, thick and hot and golden brown.

Afterward we opened the gifts.  This year there were useful and useless presents—garments and books, gift cards and money, toys and electronic devices.  I retrieved A Child’s Christmas in Wales from the small marble-topped table in the parlor and read Thomas’s section on the presents.  When I got to the part about the “celluloid duck that made, when you pressed it, a most unducklike sound, a mewing moo that an ambitious cat might make who wished to be a cow,” my granddaughter hugged her stuffed slice of bacon toy to make it say “I’m bacon!” and everybody laughed.

We redd up the boxes and the wrappings and then I took the dog out for a walk up along the ridge to the power line cut where you can look out over the wide expanse of the valley.  Off to the northeast the Barndoor Hills lay nestled in at the base of the far ridges.

The dog and I stood for a moment surveying the scene when a cacophony drifted in from across the valley.  Louder and louder came the cries.  Breathlessly I studied the far ridge line, which began to undulate, as though inked in by an unseen hand in real time.  Then suddenly the whole line lifted up against the backdrop of the overcast sky.  Black dots appeared along the now broken line as bleating and honking reached a deafening crescendo in the cold air.

Closer and closer they came, companies and battalions of geese flying in formation, rising up across the grey sky, a massive ornithological sortie.  There must have been three or four hundred, perhaps more.  In a moment the sky was filled with the deafening cries of geese as they passed overhead.

The dog and I stood stock still with our eyes raised.

A few breathless moments more and the entire gaggle had disappeared over the second ridge to the south, leaving no trace but an occasional stray bleat.

It was only after the last straggler had gone that I realized my heart was in my throat.

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4 comments on “Christmas Day, 2010: A magical moment

  1. Art Drescher says:

    Wish I had been there for the geese with my camera in hand. I wonder how many of your readers will know what redd up means. Haven’t heard that since my mother said when she was alive. Merry Christmas and have a great New Year. Maybe this is the spring we’ll get to go birding somewhere.

  2. Wonderful post – reminded me of this poem:

    WILD GEESE – Mary Oliver
    “You do not have to be good.
    You do not have to walk on your knees
    for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
    You only have to let the soft animal of your body
    love what it loves.
    Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
    Meanwhile the world goes on.
    Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
    are moving across the landscapes,
    over the prairies and the deep trees,
    the mountains and the rivers.
    Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clear blue air,
    are leading home again.
    Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
    the world offers itself to your imagination,
    calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
    over and over announcing your place
    in the family of things.”

    With acknowledgment to the author Mary Oliver – I truly hope she does not mind me sharing this with you.

    • Brian says:

      Lovely evocations! I hadn’t run across Mary Oliver’s poetry before.

      We all need to use our imaginations to find our place in the family of things.

      Thanks for posting.

  3. […] was the rocky outcropping on which I had stood countless times over the past three decades to survey the distant Barndoor Hills, gone was the lookout point with the blue blaze mark; gone the familiar ancient oaks and […]

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