In Arkansas, birds in chevrons unzip the winter sky, always on their way to some finer place. Maybe they’re going someplace with topography. From time to time, on my way home, I’ve seen whole fields carpeted with white acres of snow geese, invariably melted by morning. One day this winter there were hundreds of seagulls fishing in the lake. On Thursday, there were a handful of handsome white pelicans, drifting like dignified marshmallows in the fog over the water.
I had a praxis in Helena this morning, so I took the low road and drove slow with the radio up and the windows down. I’ve come to love country music since I came to live here: I like songs about badass ladies, loving men, bare feet, dirt roads, skinny dipping, hard work, and campfires. I also like bad puns. There are still no leaves on the trees, but today had the feel of a spring Saturday, and with Sean on a field trip, I had the world to myself. After my test, I picked up snacks in town and had a picnic at the rookery. The rookery is miles of pitted dirt from anything, and the sun was shining on Carro’s roof like the bat signal. I heeded the message and hopped up, snacking on chips, basking in the sunshine, reading, gazing up at the blue sky framed by the bare cypress and water tupelo, and tuning in to the barred owls, the absence of human noise, and the occasional cry of a prehistoric monster from the treetops.
We think they’re wood storks, but we haven’t gotten close enough to be sure. They nest in the bald cypress and they are magnificent. They’ve been gone all winter, and I’ll take it as a sign of spring that they’re here again. One of my summer ambitions is to paddle out to their trees and collect a feather. I want to feel the panic and the cool shade on my shoulders as a pterodactyl shadow flows over me, muting the sun for seconds as a time.
P.S. Sean found a dead possum in our garbage can yesterday, and neither of us put it there! It’s a mystery: did it crawl in there before the ice storm and then die of exposure? Did it choke on some particularly nasty bit of refuse?