December 30, 2012

Wild Geese

Time pushes us along like leaves in the wind. Sometimes the wind blows hard, urging us forward. At other times, there is a brief lull. In those moments of reprieve, we can sometimes catch a glimpse of what we missed.

At the end of the road I travel daily, there is a farm that lays nestled among gently folding hills. A cornfield abuts the small country road that winds past it. At this time of year, the field seems bare, the dried corn stalks long since harvested for winter feed. In fact, the ground is littered with undigested bits of stalk and corn kernels the harvester swallowed and spit back up. The field is covered with the remnants of the last snow storm, a white blanket stretching out to the horizon, where it disappears among the bare trees standing guard along the ridge-line of the mountains.

The wild geese know about the field and the food it holds, the open expanse of worked ground matching their inner eye's mapping drawn from centuries of interactions with men and their plows. You hear them before you see them. The distant echoes of honking carried by the wind, heralding their arrival. Then the wavering vee formations emerge from the sky to the north, circling first this way then that way, finally coming in for a landing, wings flapping hard to slow the descent, a brief moment of awkwardness as they transition from sky to earth.

We arrived together, the geese in the field and I on my way to work, for once with a few minutes to spare. I was listening to Leontyne Price singing "Liebestod" from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde when I came to the STOP sign that faced the field. Across the road, I could see the snow geese dotting the corn field, their heads bent down as they searched for seed, oblivious to the other arriving gaggles. There must be hundreds of them.

The winds of time stilled to a whisper. Sight and sound merged for one magical moment. Sensing time's reprieve, I lingered to watch the geese circling down from the sky as Leontyne Price carried Isolde's grieving heart skyward on soaring notes. I stayed in that moment for a brief eternity. Then time was up. I had to get  to work.

But the after-images linger. I replay the scene in my mind over and over, just as I have replayed "Liebestod" a hundred times at least. This is the last memory I want to cling to as I lay dying ... the sight of wild geese settling onto the snow-dusted fields, Price's "Liebestod" floating through my head: In the billowing torrent, in the resonating sound, in the wafting Universe of the World-Breath --- drown --- be engulfed ---unconscious ... supreme delight! Love ... Death.

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