Labor Day reverie

The hummingbirds were already engaged in an aerial dogfight near the trumpet vine when I stepped out onto the front porch with a cup of coffee in my hand. As I eased into the white wicker rocker, a cicada broke the morning stillness. Most of the black-eyed Susans had already shed their yellow summer skirts, but the white rose-bush was still in bloom.

The dog scratched inside the screen door to be let out. I took her for her morning walk, filled her dishes with food and fresh water, reached for my binoculars and headed down to the river.

At the rectory I paused to pick a handful of dark wild cherries from the tree in the front yard, retrieved the priest’s paper from the sidewalk and tossed it onto his porch, then continued down Winthrop toward the morning sun.

Catbirds mewed from dense bushes at the entrance to the park. A cardinal hopped along the low wooden fence. Down on the river just below the red stone bridge abutments a string of ducks took flight.

The goldfinches flitted about in the brush on either side of the old road. I lifted my binoculars to bring a pale blue smudge in the far trees into focus. A big blue heron filled the visual field, preening his breast in the sunlight.

Perched on a branch protruding from the depths of the duckweed-choked pond, a green heron stood his sentinel watch. Further along I paused by the rope swing at the riverbank and trained the binoculars on the far shore to find a sandpiper working his way along the mudflats.

Up at the point cedar waxwings dipped and soared in aerial display above the water. A dark blue fork-tailed swallow darted across the expanse and dappled the surface with his bill. From some secluded spot on the opposite bank the lonely call of a mourning dove echoed in the faint breeze.

Back in the pond the green heron extended his long neck and darted his bill into the green carpeted surface. He threw his head back, opened wide the gap of an orange mouth and tossed his beak from side to side in a silent scream.

As I lowered my binoculars, a battered olive-green pickup truck jostled down the road and slowed to a stop. “See anything good?” the driver asked, leaning toward the passenger window.

“A few birds — this and that,” I said.

“Heard a warbling vireo earlier,” the man said.

“They’re still around, although I judge they’re getting ready to vacate for greener pastures.”

I waved him on and retraced my steps back up the road. Two strings of heavy Canada honkers slid overhead as I approached the village.

Back at the house the hummers were still out, engaged in aerial combat. By the end of the week they would be gone for the year.

I spit the last cherry seed out over the porch balustrade and sunk down into the wicker rocker. High up in one of the trees across the street a cicada ratcheted up another deafening buzz.