In my elevated perch, I felt it this morning. The bracing wind that blew into my face, and through my plumed body. She was crisp in the lingering summer warmth, but not cold, as morning breezes tend to be sometimes. An unseeable dancer, she twirled around trees, she glided from branches, she swept across the floor, and then she left. And after she was gone, a few greenish-yellow leaves lay solemnly on the ground.
In-between the summer of yesterday and the fall of tomorrow, today is a liminal day of yearning recollections and wishful thoughts. The message has arrived: I must be off again, and with each journey more perilous than the last, it is not a trip I look forward to. Do I have everything? Yes. But not everyone. This time it will hurt. I know this because I haven’t stopped hurting.
The memories are still vivid, not because I remember them so well, but because I refuse to forget. That magical summer day of the best weather and great company is not easily forgotten.
Not long ago, on that day of clear, bright skies, and clean, light air, we twisted through the heavens and weaved around fluffy clouds, tumbling and twirling. From high up the fast-moving images of down below told many a story. For those on the outside the normalcy of life flitted by unnoticed, but for those living it, a nostalgic fragment it would forever be.
In our eyeline, the fawn tracts of fields of barley spread wide, swaying in the cool breeze. A pair of young lovers in its midst was lost to the world around them, running after each other, he after her, then she after him.
“You’re too fast, Ben,” she said, stumbling and falling, but persisting.
“Come on Sara, keep up,” he said, not looking back, but waited patiently under a large tree when he got there moments later.
Not far off in a bucolic wonder, a placid lake fringed a large farm enclosing a quaint cottage in a shady corner. A puff of white smoke from the brick chimney rose into the air, curled away by a draught from the woods nearby. Bovine herds on the opposite end disrupted the serenity, mooing and slapping their tails against their hinds, sending whirring flies from one side of their bodies to the other side.
“Lemonade’s ready,” shouted the woman on the porch. Dressed in a floral summer dress, she could be just as comfortable in the city some distance away, as on the farm.
“In a minute hun,” replied her husband from the barn. He sounded gruff, but he may well have been panting from exhaustion.
Outside of the farm, a fair breeze sailed from the craggy ridges into an idyllic vista of verdant valleys and sylvan forests. Sky-high fir trees alongside rustic expanses made for a scenic vista and equable deer capped the picture of stirring calm. It seemed as if humans hadn’t left their odious footprints on that part of the world, yet. From the midst wafted the aromas of flourishing flora and green grasses to fill our lungs with their wholesomeness. Even fallen sprigs exuded freshness there.
Further on, a vista of colours and tints of varied form exploded into view. Melodious voices drifted through resplendent gardens of colourful blooms, sprinkled lawns and leafy dells, where petals flitted in the summer breeze and scattered on the ground like glittery confetti. The suburbs are always well kept. A place of plenty, it’s never difficult to find something to eat there.
“Come on son, keep your eye on the ball,” said a barefooted man in a white vest and beige shorts.
“Don’t be a pansy,” shouted his brother, to the laughs of his sister and mother.
But then the mother said, “Leave my baby alone,” angering the kid who threw the bat on the ground.
“Don’t call me baby.”
From there into the city centre, a labyrinth of asphalt led to a drab vista where clear bright skies had yielded to dull black smog. The sombre skyline in monotone was a harrowing vision of dirt and grime that had gathered over ages. The entanglements of wire where we once sat blissfully, had turned into death traps as noxious vapour hung in the air, suffocating those within the city’s confines.
Outside of the city from a rest on the ground, our gaze upwards was a rare one. In the brightness above, an invisible artist—a divine hand perhaps—had painted the sky in a brilliant array of colours. The birds like brushes, the rainbow his palette, broad, careful strokes went from left, to right, and back again to left as splendid shades, tints and tinges faded into the milky azure. The radiant reds, bright blues, and gleaming greens flecking the kaleidoscopic landscape were reflected in the sky and created a floral painting that extended into a wisped horizon. We hadn’t seen it like this before, but the sky was truly an emotive masterpiece.
Later in the day, the blushing sun descended behind the hills in the yonder. A soft ambient glow on the textured surfaces, and shimmer on the greyish facade of buildings, produced a mystical visage as a tired sun evanesced. A streak of light through the trees caught our eyes, blurring our vision momentarily, but not long enough to be deflecting from the natural beauty of that time of day.
And that night, the moon like a phantom face high in the sky, she stared and cast her white light on every surface. The flicker of streetlights added aesthetic appeal to the lacklustre buildings, and varying shadows and a thousand voices on a busy street were carried to us by a winnowing wind.
In a crowded restaurant, a young man down on his knees said to the beautiful lady seated at their table, “Will you marry me, Kate,” while opening a little box with a shiny ring in it.
"Yes, yes, yes," she said, without hesitation, and glassy-eyed. And the restaurant erupted in claps and whistles.
In the alley behind the eatery, a man hanging over a bin is shouted at by the owner, “Get away, you filthy scum. Leave those bins alone.”
The people in these buildings, they lived there. They loved there, and hated there, too.
We made our way home, an endless melancholic trip. It was the last day of summer, that day, and the next day leaves, yellowish-green, fluttered in a gentle wind and fell to the ground. And thereafter more leaves found their way downwards. Soon, forlorn trees tilting toward the ground reached out to orphaned branches, denuded twigs, and naked sticks.
It was then time to travel.
We packed light, as always. As scouts, we were counted on to keep us in the right direction. The world was a much different place than it used to be, and minor miscalculations do occur. Sent ahead, we immediately encountered difficulty as the landscape had changed so much in so short a time.
On land once lush, a dry and thirsty wind glided from craggy and aged mountains to lightly blow and twirl over this land burned by the fire of the sun, but once bathed in the shower of the clouds. The rivers didn’t flow here anymore, the surface hard, the cracks gaping, the colour speckled-brown. Thriving vegetation had crawled into the ground, wooded forests had withered away into the rock, to be swiftly and stealthily replaced by spiny cacti lording over the vestiges of a grassland.
The world had indeed changed.
Without indication, he catapulted away from me. “Don’t go any further,” I said, with a visceral foreboding gnawing in my tummy.
“A little more,” he said while increasing the distance between us.
Behind him, dust sprinkles wrenched from the ground swirled and twisted in the air, faster and faster, like a giant spinning top. In an instant of madness, the earth was shaken by the rumble of faraway mountains, the dry sand flared as lightning cracked across the darkened sky, and thunder tore into the fissured land as a wild tempest swept through the countryside. A blustery wind shrieked and whistled as she lifted rocks into the air and dragged off uprooted trees in an eerie atmosphere. When the quiet reappeared, I thought I was in the midst of a very bad dream, but my of loss returned me to my calamitous reality.
He was gone. The violent turbulence had tracked him and swallowed him whole.
And now, today, alone in my roost, where the twigs have hardened, a ghostly scenery has appeared before my eyes. In the gloom of the night, discoloured leaves sail to the ground, blanketing it in darkish-yellow. Trees, their leaves stripped away, resemble ghoulish stick figures haunting the countryside.
Tomorrow I leave for a distant land, a land that lies over colossal massifs. I will hear his faint trills in the wind, of that I am certain. And over rough swells, his wavering chirps will bounce and caper to find me, wherever I am.
He will be with me. My best friend ever, Finchie.