Fall always manages to bring back home--even when I'm already there.
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I noticed the feathers before he did, which was a good thing. Normally he doesn’t care about things that have already expired—his earnest heart wants the heady scent of delicate bird bones sheathed in wings, whisper-thin veins pumping transparent blood to a tiny, thumb-sized heart. That’s the smell he lunges for, not the decaying fetid stink of death—we both recoil from it. As we get closer the heap proves to be a blackbird, a crow, huddled under one of the oak trees and unnaturally still. You almost never see them dead. I’ve see lots of dead birds, and dying ones too, but never a crow—here, you don’t hunt them, and they’re too smart to get hit by cars or fly into windows.
We are walking through the cornfield we didn’t think looked promising—and it isn’t—when I realize it, at least a little bit. He says to me, “I think I’m going to start carrying my gun this way,” he shows me, the muzzle pointed to the ground, “so I can get it up to my shoulder faster.” No, I say after a second, when something has clicked.
Each time they pass over, there is a soft rush of air--the noise of a thousand small displacements of sky beneath wings. Barely, they whistle. It is not so light yet that Orion's belt has melted into the dark, I see it--hard line of rocks above us, glittering in the pale blue of morning, revealed by a small patch in drifty gray clouds. Hello, hello. The field is not gray, like the world is at the start of so many days, but deep blues and greens, a renaissance dream.
The day we left I wrote in my journal, “But still—sometimes the mundanity of life overwhelms the grandness of it, and we lose sight of the forest for all those trees.” We are standing atop a butte in North Carolina called Devil’s Courthouse when this thought I had came back to me—and not least because we were, literally, standing above wave after wave of trees, rippling out into the distance like a sea—getting bluer as they neared the horizon, so the last few swells nearly matched the sky. Take a deep breath, I tell myself, and remember this moment.