Friday 2 September 2016

Outdoor Adventure: As sure as geese fly south, the seasons are changing

Posted by at 12:11 PM

There comes a time when the pace of life quickens as a river that runs slow and easy narrows, tightens, picks up speed in riffles and then rapids where a stone’s throw away it ran smooth and quiet. Watch a river change pace; in that see more than moving water. River pace changes quick. Season pace changes as well.

The slow moving days of summer now lie behind us like languorous current; ahead the first riffles of early autumn; following that the rush and the flurry of the change to late fall and winter to come after that. Seasons change as a river changes and in the change we are caught up and carried by the flow.

Protest the change at your own peril for it will do no good. You may stomp your feet and gnash your teeth at days and times and season just passed; all that you will accomplish is a foolish waste of energy. In the dawn of the new day you will wake to change for all your protestations. For on a day in late August when the calendar reads summer you will step out into the early morning and feel a change in the air. You will feel it in your heart and your soul. On that day you will feel autumn in the air.

We had that day this week. We had that day on which the season change was as evident as a flag waved in the dawning of the new day. It was not just a new day but a new season; change had come and settled like a house guest who is there for a long haul. Reason may say this is a temporary thing; heart and soul speaks a different story.

Do you doubt the change of seasons? Do not; it is real. Look no further than the long afternoon shadows. Look for the dawning; later now than 30 days past. Look at the world around you. And listen.

Listen as I did this week to the call of geese, twenty or so gathered on a small lake. Local birds by my guess, family groups pulling together; small families to build a flock. They were nervous, ker-honking in the afternoon until they all took flight in a flurry of wings and a cascade of calls.

In the distance the call of sandhill cranes, wild and lonely, coming from over the treeline where I’d seen them in the farm fields. Three dozen, maybe more, red-capped adults, dusky-topped young birds. They will hold in the fields until the food runs out or the north wind is right and then they will take flight and be gone.
For now they are here, the tall cranes gathering into flocks, but migration is at hand. Changes.

On a calm evening this week, a migration of nighthawks. A single bird, then another, then more; a dozen at one time sweeping and swooping in their inexorable move south. Every August there is night or two when the nighthawks move in vast migrations. On those evenings I sit gape mouthed in wonder at the flight of the birds.

Nighthawks move in a casual manner compared to the geese and the cranes. The nighthawks seem leisurely, cutting broad swaths across the sky, sweeping and diving and, in time, moving on. Geese and cranes migrate with purpose; echelons pointed south as an arrow in flight, strong wing beats keeping rhythm of ancient songs. But always south, the birds of autumn, always south, drawn by forces as powerful as they are unseen. The birds, large and small, in flight now or staging for flight soon.
It is not merely birds that move in the early autumn air, it is change. You do not need a calendar to note that.

Now is the time of looking forward for the hunter; their time near; their inner tension tight as a bow string, soon to be released. The past 30 days the time of summer; the next 30 the time of the hunt.

I heard the geese and took time to watch them riding high on the water. Away from the water heavy greenery; home of deer and grouse and all manner of wildlife. All of them now moving to colder weather, shorter days, autumn.

The lakes still hold warmth; the high sun of midday brings heat. But the change is in the air, make no mistake about it. Change is there, as clear as the call of cranes, as uplifting as the song of geese on wing, a sharp and unyielding as the rush of air over nighthawks’ wings that cleaves the evening sky as a knife that cuts the pages of the calendar and sends them tumbling ahead of the chill breeze.
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