Sunday, January 27, 2008

Snow Geese

As Darby and I walked with Molly and Finn this morning in the fields behind our home, we heard geese in the sky to the north. Well, they sounded kind of like geese (Canadian), but for a few moments they were hard to find in the sky. Then a shimmer ran along a faint line, and then another, and then we realized we were looking at Snow Geese. (I swiped the photo from a a Div. of Fish and Wildlife website). Hundreds of them, in several flights. As they crossed east to west, a shimmer would flow along the line of the flight as they shifted and wheeled, then they would nearly disappear in the mauve haze of the winter light. We stood and watched them for several minutes, hundreds, or thousands of birds. It was an amazingly beautiful moment.

The last time I got to see my great uncle Howard, he had just come down from his timber with his daughter, son-in-law, and grandson. They had pulled over at an overlook so his grandson could take a picture of the evening sun, and heard a whirring sound. As they waited, listened and watched, a tight flight of birds burst through an opening in the trees. The birds tore past in a compressed flight, the flock building, ebbing and building again, thousands upon thousands, continuing for several minutes. When they told me about it later at the house, Howard was quiet for a minute, and then smiled and said, I've never seen anything like it. This from a man who retired from ranching at 70, then spent the next twenty plus years managing his timber because he knew he would have been bored by retirement. In his youth, he traveled the northwest shearing sheep and pitching in minor league baseball, followed by a lifetime of ranching, then his timber. He had seen a lot of amazing things, and was always aware there was more to see.

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