I was awakened the other night by the sound of a goose in flight. It’s funny how things sound so different at night, where something as homely as a goose’s honk in daylight, becomes a haunted and lonely sound in the night. Once I’m awake at night, I’m usually awake for a time and I’ve learned to reconcile myself to this for the most part. Usually I get up and read, or maybe I’ll think about the bits of story I’m working on and what I’ll work on the next day and I’ll fall asleep with some grand sentence half-formed in my mind, knowing full well it will have slipped my artist’s grasp come morning. But the other night I just opened the curtains a little, the moon was on the wane and it shed a ghostly silver light over the hills opposite, hills thick with green and sap and life right now. I thought about the goose, imagining what it would be like to fly through the night, gliding on the currents of the dark, moonlight drifting thick over your wings. I wondered if the goose was a lone wolf, so to speak, maybe widowed last autumn by a hunter’s careless gun. Or if a mate was sitting in a nest right now, awaiting its return. I imagined that flight so well that I found I was up on my tiptoes, yearning toward the moon, wanting to know what the dark felt like up there above the trees, how the water in the pond below would reflect the moon, a melting rose-gold orb rinsing herself before she too went off to bed. And maybe the goose would land on that pond, and for a second drown in the last of the moonlight.
It struck me in that moment, on that level that is a bit too deep for words to adequately convey, that we live in this earth not on it. That we swim in the air, sink in the soil, and come in from walking bare foot with the discarded skin of buds and leaves stuck to our skin with sweet sap. Sometimes, at night, in the quiet, without the distractions of other humans, if you still yourself, if you really listen, you can feel the planet breathing, moving, spinning through the stars, dancing through night toward day. You have to be willing to look at the world with an undefended heart, to be open enough to ache for its beauty, its connections, its merciless heart. You have to know you are part of it, but so is everything else- the larch tree in your back yard, the squirrel in the pine, the ant below your foot, the spider that lives in the corner of your porch. The white-gold light of the sun at noon, the thicket of brambles down the lane.
Moths beat against my bedroom screen at night, wanting the small warmth of my reading light. My heart hurts for them. I go to the window and feel the frenzy of their quest, impossible as it is, it never stops them, just as the want of impossible things never stops us. I understand the moth’s desire, even if it is only for the twenty watt star. I understand the dream of the mouse for a home untrampled by human feet and wheels and concrete, I know the dream of a bee for a field of clover and sunny-faced dandelions. I imagine the dreams of a whale confined in an aquarium, dreams of long, long channels of cold, blue water, where they can sing to other whales and tell of their day, tell their stories, just as we long to do. I think of the goose, its call still dying on the night and wonder if the dream of migration is already there, the long flight it will take in a few short months. Does it dream of the coastlines and the chart of stars above its head by which it will find its way to its winter home? Each day such invisible dreams are carried past us, down long corridors of time and eons of change. The bearers of the dreams die, fade to dust, return to the soil and the air and the water. But the dreams remain. And the dreams, I feel, are worthy of pause and pursuit, they are after all the stuff of life and the thing that keeps us moving forward and also glancing back, whether we be ant or moth, whale or elephant, goose or human. It is, to use a term I don’t really like ‘news-worthy’. And this thought reminds me of a ninth century Irish poem by an author who has been lost to the mists of time.
I have news for you:
The stag bells, snow falls, summer goes
Wind high and cold, the sun low, short its course
The sea running high.
Deep red the bracken; its shape is lost;
The wild goose has raised its accustomed cry,
Cold has seized the birds’ wings;
Season of ice, this is my news.
I have news too, though not of stocks and bonds, or Apple’s new operating system, or the latest celebrity wedding or scandal. It is simply this:
There are tadpoles in the pond near my house.
The blue spruce I was in early mourning for has survived and has the dusk-blue tips of new growth on its branches.
The roses are budding.
There are red calves in the fields.
The Douglas fir whom I consider a dear friend lost a huge branch over the winter, but is recovering nicely.
The woodpeckers who live in the tree by my bedroom window have babies.
Lilacs smell just as sweet on the hundredth sniff as they do on the first.
There is a goose that flies in the night with the light of a rose-gold moon on its wings. This is my news.