I awoke with the light of the full moon streaming in through the bedroom window. Shortly, I stepped out the back door into the street. A light rain had fallen overnight. I set out at a quick pace on my early morning walk along the black streets dappled with yellow leaves glistening under street lights and the full moon.
The previous evening I sat at table next to the wife of an old friend. Unexpectedly, we had met at the annual March of Dimes fundraiser. Earlier we browsed the food booths in the great hall, sampling specialty dishes served up by chefs from local area restaurants. Now we rested at the round tables, listening to the local news personalities as they made a plea for contributions via the silent auction.
I don’t recall how the subject came up, but at some point my friend’s wife mentioned that they had taken up birding. As an avid birder myself, this bit of information intrigued me; and soon we were swapping bird stories. She told me how one of her twin daughters had been pursued by a low-flying flock of sand cranes during a family camping excursion. I told her about the time the Canada geese came honking in waves across the valley early one winter morning. Then she took a deep breath and told me about the tree swallows in Lord’s Cove.
Lord’s Cove is an extensive area of brackish reed marsh and tidal wetlands situated between Essex and Old Lyme on the Connecticut River. They were kayaking the salt marshes one late September evening, when suddenly the sky was filled with swarming tree swallows. “There must have been tens of thousands of them,” she said. “We were engulfed by the sound of the roar of their wings. Then all at once they converged in a funnel and dropped down into the tall grass on the island and were gone.”
An auctioneer had ascended the stage and began the bidding on the big-ticket items. Later I learned that my friend’s wife had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma the previous year. She saw her oncologist every three months. She told me she had come to trust him; and for the moment, she felt fine.
I neglected to tell her the story of the wild geese I had seen gliding down in formation to a field filled with corn stubble, their wings arched high to soften their landing.
I made my way back from my early morning walk as the moon broke through the clouds above the far horizon. As I turned the corner by the church at the end of our street, the wind picked up and a shower of golden leaves engulfed me, gently slapping the still glistening street beneath my feet.