Vientiane, Laos – Before departing the States, I stopped over at Tom and Loretta’s to tie up a few loose ends. Tom was in his basement dungeon office, Loretta upstairs in the kitchen, in her perpetual on-the-fly mode, getting ready to head out the door.
“You want anything from China?” I asked.
Just as she opened her mouth to speak, I stopped her by saying, “Just go over there to Wal-Mart. They’ve got it all.”
I hope I can get into heaven with greater clearance and wider margin than the ‘just under the wire’ exit from the reservation this past fall, just ahead of a major winter snow storm and deep freeze, then a warm up tease, followed by another storm, making it difficult to dig the graves.
Well, the almanac and everybody, the trees and wind said it was going to be a hard winter. Follow the geese. It’s time to fly. But there is hope, na? Winter doesn’t last forever, and the world may look different when it ends.
Those hard winters in life build resiliency, but they can also make you snap, take you to your breaking point, exhaust you, demonstrate your fragility, debunking the myth of that which doesn't kill you will make you stronger. Nature’s pruning, branches snapping, ice falling from tree limbs, frost inside your walls, your meager fire trying to keep death at bay, its fingers creeping across your floor.
Was there something distressing on your plate? “A Front-Burner, On-A-Boil Issue,” as Mr. Ferguson used to say. Drama and trauma issues. Could you walk through it, participating joyfully in the sorrows of the world?
Could you dance? Did you feel like it, and what was the nature of your songs?
The flock was returning from the south in the spring, on a north by northwest heading above the reservation, up to Canada, several thousand feet up, up in the stratosphere it seemed like. Even at that altitude, their faint, distant honking drew my attention in that reservation quiet. Big flock, fifty, maybe sixty geese, in a huge ‘V’, the seven in the vanguard exchanging roles to share the lead.
Before they were out of sight, the very last bird at the end of the line broke formation, stumbled, struggled, regained for a few seconds, then, no, lost it, exhausted, fluttered, sank, caught itself, then went sailing toward the ground in a steep controlled dive.
The flock continued on, but the last three birds of the formation immediately peeled off and went into a dive after that one member of their family.
The flock maintained its northward course, but seven birds in the wing rolled over and went after the other three. The formation shuddered, the other wing suddenly disrupted, a dozen or so diving after the seven, then the entire flock, with the exception of the vanguard, stopped in flight, took a look, then without circling or further hesitation, dived after the other members.
The vanguard pressed on for just a few seconds, the two or three flying within the front ‘V’ turning, like, hey, where did everybody...then the entire body of leaders turned and began their descent to the ground.