I woke this morning, and shortly after my first sip of coffee, glanced out the window at the lightening sky in the east. I hadn’t been out at dawn lately, and I planned to spend much of the day in my classroom, unpacking supplies and dipping my toes into the idea of the fast approaching school year. Remembering that free time was fleeing as quickly and as surely as the birds were migrating south, I spontaneously decided to drive down to the river.
About ten minutes later, as I parked, my friend, Roger, pulled in next to me. We climbed out and exchanged greetings. Then, we wandered as we wished, absorbing the morning scenery, snapping pictures here and there. After a bit, our paths crossed near the dock.
“I miss the swallows,” Roger said, gesturing meaningfully at the mosquitos that swarmed between two bushes along the path.
“I saw a huge flock of swallows at the marsh almost two weeks ago,” I said. “It was amazing! They were everywhere! Hundreds of them!” Then I lamented, “But it seems so early for them to be heading south.”
“I saw about fifty up on the tracks the other day,” he said, then added, “It’s the same time they left last year.” After a moment, he commented, perhaps to console me, “There’ll be a few stragglers.”
As is our habit, we next walked up to the bridge to wait for the sunrise. As we approached, the air seemed so still. Where weeks ago there were swooping swallows putting on a non-stop aerial show, today none were in sight. The sky seemed lonely.
Then, as I stepped onto the bridge, a couple of swallows approached. Just a few. I pointed them out to Roger, smiling, and then stood quietly, watching them dart and dive through the air currents, hunting insects.
Soon afterward, a movement in the sky downstream caught my eye. I looked up and saw a bird approaching in the distance.
“Something’s coming!” I said to Roger.
We both aimed our cameras toward the incoming bird.
“See it?” I asked. “I think it’s a heron!”
As it flew closer, we could see that it was indeed a great blue heron, one of my favorite birds. It landed briefly on a nearby water plane, then flew off again. I tracked its path through my lens, past an osprey (which I hadn’t even noticed) and on to a perch in a tree along the river’s edge. Roger and I stood quietly and watched the two birds for long minutes.
Eventually, both osprey and heron flew off. The sun rose higher, lit the mist and gilded the edge of the dock. A small flock of cedar waxwings flittered and flew through the metal lattice of the bridge. Small fish jumped and flashed silver in the river.
I stood and watched it all, fully appreciating the generosity of the morning.