Saturday, October 23, 2004

Winging It

So I dropped the Feared Redhead off at work this morning, and as the car door opened, I heard what has become for me the definitive sound of fall, and had to blog on it. It's a sound I grew up with, but went without for 12 years living in San Diego. Then I moved back to Oregon, and that first fall back, the sound came to my ears again and I realized you could experience 12 years of longing in the same instant that you experience its fulfillment. What is this magical sound, you ask? Why, of course, it's the honkers. The Canadian Geese are on the move.

Every fall they migrate south, every spring the migrate north. Here in Oregon, it stays warm enough yet never gets too hot for a few to stay year round, or to linger later than the majority of their brethren, but for the most part, the seasons of change bring the sound of huge flights of them all engaging in an avian call-and-response chorus as they wing their way urgently overhead. It's a paradoxical sound, one that is both melodious and cacaphonous, sad and joyful. In the same voice it speaks of the wistfull farewell to summer and to green northern climes, and the enthusiastic expectation of sunny lands to the south. And it is, as I have said, the sound of fall. The wind that brings the geeses wings brings also a hint of chill.

Fall is the time of such paradoxes, a time of trade-offs. Gone are the bright summer days with their seemingly endless sunshine, here instead is the crisp air and the clean smell of rain. Gone is the ubiquitous warmth that mocks the need for excess clothing, here instead is an excuse to nestle in as close to your lover as you can. Here in Oregon, our falls are not as spectacular as back east, because the deciduous trees do not have the same monopoly. In exchange, we are comforted by the knowledge that once the leaves have fallen, it will still be green. The flowers are gone, but the harvest is in. And while we may not be able to enjoy as many outdoor activities as we did over the summer, there is a whole new set of things to do. It's not as liberating a season, but it is much cozier.

And so when I finish here today and step back outside, I'll listen again for the sound of the honkers, and I'll wave them a farewell for the winter. I'll still be here when they come back in the spring.