While You Were In  

sandpiperWhile you were in, a hermit thrush called. There’s no telling whether or when he’ll call again, fluting his song into the forest, where it will linger less than an instant.

A doe stopped by while you were in, entertaining a parade of anxious thoughts. She decapitated your favorite phlox, the ones with the snowy white heads. She is parked on the lawn now, working her cud like an insolent woman chewing gum.

While you were in, thousands of eggs hatched in hidden nests. Among them were the pea-sized eggs of the ruby throated hummingbird tanking up at your feeder to keep her heart beating 1,200 times a minute.

Peas swelled in their pods while you were in, and the cucumbers fattened under the rough umbrellas of their leaves, some to the point of bitterness.

While you were in, millions of mosquito larvae escaped their straight jackets and learned to fly. They are waiting for you at the window screens. What they lack in longevity they make up for in numbers.

Another moon came and went while you were in, the one the Mi’kmaq call Birds Shed Feathers Moon. It won’t be back for another year.

While you were in, the breeze delivered a fresh load of salty air and fog, which hung around briefly, erasing the horizon. The sea licked pebbles clean and coughed up rockweed and eelgrass, a blue nylon bait bag, dead crabs and shards of brown and green glass.

A few semipalmated sandpipers showed up while you were in, but not nearly as many as last year. They have commuted up and down your coast in spring and fall for millennia to feast in the mudflats. Now they are disappearing, and no one knows why.

While you were in, jewelweed bloomed in the ditches. The freckled orange blossoms ripened into pods you loved to pop when you were a child. Back then, you were seldom in, if you could help it.

There were too many calls to keep track of while you were in: gulls and terns and robins. Innumerable cicadas. A white-throated sparrow, gray tree frogs, and crows, who are back from visiting their cousins.

While you were in, Queen Anne’s lace replaced the daisies in the field and blueberries ripened in the tall grass. Bittersweet gained countless new strangleholds.

The sun has swung by every morning while you were in, and will continue to do so, whether you choose to receive it or not. It will, however, be arriving a little later each day, and leaving earlier.

All of which is to say, you need to get out more.

(published in the Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 2013)


Posted in Essays.