One advantage of the slower pace the dog now sets on the morning marsh walks is the opportunity to scout around for birds. It’s been a cold, wet spring and my long, weather-beaten parka felt warm and comfortable on the ramble this past Saturday morning. As is usual these days, we took the meadow walk instead of the trail through the woods; this offers a great view of a wandering watercourse with the lonely train track in the background. As we came around the lower part of the oval walk, a stunningly orange bird sat perched on a stubby gray fence post. It was odd to see it sitting there in the first place, and, when it took flight, a full red-orange flame spread from wingtip to wingtip. No black of the oriole, no red of the cardinal. What could this Firebird be?
The dog and I trudged on while I considered the tanager possibilities. Once home, in consultation with my birder husband, only the summer tanager seemed to fit what I had seen. Recent internet sightings included one such bird seen on Nantucket: could he or another of his kind have arrived in our more northern meadow?
The rest of the weekend took flight about as quickly as the bird in question. Laundry abounded; dorm furniture had to be moved into summer housing on campus; when said bill for the same was discovered to be as yet unpaid, that had to get paid. Distant children sent texts and Face-timed; party decorations for the retirement party I am shepherding tomorrow had to be finished while I pondered what to pack for the upcoming mid-week trip to Chicago, all this on Sunday afternoon alone.
But fast forward to the moment I just experienced this Monday morning as I took my train seat, my body laden with said party supplies and general work gear. Today the conductor did not ask to see my train pass! Could this be another kind of Arrival, a sign that I, a rider only three days a week, am now a known bird who travels from my locale to the Big City? Perhaps the tanager, spring, and I have all arrived, almost together, at the true cusp of summer, of being known and recognized. And perhaps what lies ahead for us all is the arrival of true summer, a place of rest and warmth, the good Earth under our feet and sky-bound breezes beneath our wings.