Along a Path


The coarse darkness settled on the ground. Above, the tree limbs played in the dying twilight. Birds, bugs, and amphibians sang out in a shrieking chorus that put any middle school band warm up to shame.

She giggled at the thought of owls stretching out with their oboes, mosquitoes and their tiny violins, with plodding bullfrogs on percussion. All wanted to be heard and pretended that the others did not exist. Glorious chaos and an unremitted disaster.

Her walk took her among a young forest, reclaimed woods springing up from what would have been farmland or orchards a century prior. Her great grandfather and his family might well have worked the land. It was hard to picture a time when most people were farmers. Now most people seem to shrink from even having a garden.

The clouds were dark and occasionally followed through with their threatening stance with rain. The water felt nice in the heat. So long as there was no lightning. That would be a bit too hot. But she would get to use a nice pun about the electricity of tonight’s concert performance. Still; while a pun is always nice to be had, she thought it might be better to still have a beating heart.

She let her mind wander of its own accord, mindless daydreaming as her steps led her further down the lightly packed path. She started to hum a tune which spurred her brain to picture various woodland creatures in various forms of formal ware for their concerto, instruments alive in their hands, beaks, and so on. She wondered who could make such tiny violins and conjectured that field mice would make excellent craftsmen. If rats can cook at a three star restaurant, mice can excel at woodworking.

She froze as spied a large dark form in the tree off to her side. She slowly moved her head and saw the owl gazing over the small clearing she happened to be walking across. She could not make out any features, so in reality it could have been a hawk or vulture. But vultures tend to be in groups and in dead trees. And she figured a hawk would be more inclined to be sleeping at this hour; the large predator seemed to be poised and on the hunt. She remembered her hair was in a ponytail and hoped it wasn’t confused for a squirrel.

As she laughed aloud, the large bird took flight away, startled at her outburst and, frankly, her impropriety. Owls nor hawks are known for their sense of humor. It’s a shame it wasn’t a vulture. At least they have a dark sense of humor.

It was beginning to get hard to see, so she turned around and began her walk home. Part of her wondered why it suddenly didn’t get lighter out as she reversed course; the universe revolved around her, at least in her own mind. Why couldn’t it actually do her any favors? The other part of her thought that was idiotic.

Her footsteps rose up with a simple rhythmic cadence that was pleasant to her ears. It felt like she was walking in time to the band. They had finally found the right chord, or key, or whatever it was. Maybe she was the conductor, and the speed of her exit simply hastened their sound to a nicely formed crescendo. Or maybe it was all in her head and they didn’t even realize she was there.

Soon she was gone. A large bird settled back on its favorite hunting perch and threw its watchful gaze below. It no longer had a willing audience, but it really did not mind.

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