Max and I walked at the Bow River when the light was flat. The sky was cool white-grey on warm white-grey and I thought that it was interesting that I could see one thick layer on top of the other and that there was no part of white that seemed transparent. The sky was a panel of two colours, layered. In front of the panel, brilliant white snowflakes fell, angled, to the ground. The wind was bitter. I pulled my hoodie up over my ears and hair and soon after, also the hood to my coat. My cheeks were cold, but the wind was to my back, definitely pushing us from the north. We were walking in a blizzard. The landscape was softened in a white fog and the river was umber/ultramarine dark.
I stood still beside Lauren’s bench and looked at my phone. A string of little bells had set off earlier and I knew that it was my daughter. Some people write about things in very lengthy threads. Some break their ideas into little bits and send them like jewels across time and space and through this abstract world of possibility and connection. My daughter’s loving messages came to me…I typed, in return…
“Teachers earn their wage.”
“I’m worried about my eagles, especially the youngsters.”
“I’m booking off tomorrow.”
“I love you.”
She replied, “Love you too”
At her ‘love you too’ (and you likely won’t believe this), one of the juveniles, deepest umber and back etched in a layer of snow, flew directly in front of and past me, over the churning river, heading south on the cold wind, his wing span, forgotten. Yesterday, in autumn, I saw both Dad and his new woman and that had given me a lot of peace. I know that everything is natural to these raptors, but in my depth of gratitude for what pleasure they have brought to me, I am concerned, in the same way as a person is concerned for any creature that faces such a brutal winter.
Max spooked. He and I saw the white-tail at the same time. She thought she needed to bolt, but I assured her very quickly by moving Max and I the opposite direction and instantaneously averted my eyes and forced my excited dog to submit to me. We walked closer to the water.
I found it interesting that the gulls were so active, weaving in and out of one another and skimming the surface of the water. These gulls have a huge wing span. And they seem very hardy, performing every sort of maneuver, often directly into the wind. I stood still, very close to the river’s edge, and watched them. Max nuzzled his snout deep into the cold snow, now and then, eating a bit.
While foot falls seemed swallowed by the snow and sounds were muffled, airplanes overhead were loud and interfered with the great mystery that is always lurking around each bend, the unknown, the hidden…waiting through every season, especially when a woman and her dog are alone, unremarkable, quiet.
My Canon was warm next to my chest and zipped under my winter jacket. My phone rested in my right hand pocket. I grabbed it and snapped three photographs of the distinctive textures of shrubs, still fully leaved, having lost the sense of autumn far too quickly.
A cacophony erupted from the east and over our heads, flew, in perfect formation and with winged concavity in synchronized motion, a huge number of Canada geese. I would have snapped a photograph. Such a beautiful pattern against the backdrop of our second big snow. They strategically came to rest in the shallow channel of water that separates the small island from me. A loud bit of sorting, their voices raised havoc on the river, the gulls, now, engaged in the mix up.
Once stepping into the deep woods, I turned my eyes upward in order to look for the dark form of the juvenile, but he did not reappear, so he must have gone beyond. The snow pelted my face, not as much flakes as crystals. I naturally opened my mouth. I brought my face down, in gratitude, for having seen him at all. The sky was turning a darker shade of grey and so I continued through the tall grass, now weighted down with snow and fallen across the worn path of summer.
Eastern starlings, many of them, lifted up and out of the golden brown canopy in unison, seeming alarmed but uncertain of where to alight. It was as though they were of one mind…but, what part of that machine would decide/move/land and why would all of the others follow? They disappeared. I wondered if I had actually witnessed this.
Heading back on the groomed pathway and then once again, cutting through the trees, I saw her surrounded in the shrubs and wearing an aura or a crown of golden leaves. Her eyes were deep black, dark pools of gentleness, her nose, just as dark. I cautioned Max. She stood perfectly still in an almost-grey silhouette. I spoke assuring words for absolutely no reason until we had passed.
These are the moments at the river.
This is a culmination of an hour, not snapping photographs. This is how people used to remember.