A sweet breeze drifted through Kathleen’s car window, and she pressed the button to lower it completely with her left hand, while lifting a plastic travel mug to her lips with the right. Only about ten minutes left, and she’d need to get on her way, but she waited patiently, sipping the last bit of her morning coffee, knowing she wouldn’t be disappointed.
It had become a ritual now, stopping here at the pond every morning on her way to school, driving in along the dirt road and pulling up as close to the edge as she could. She had a feeling the wild geese had come to expect her, for lately they hand’t been scattering immediately as they had when she first started coming, gliding away from the reedy shoreline with an irritated shhhush in their hurried attempt to escape her intrusion into their peaceful morning. Now they simply looked up at her, the pair of them slowly raising their long necks and staring at her with marked disinterest, as if to say, “Oh, it’s only that strange woman come to stare at us again.”
Kathleen propped her head against the headrest and watched them go about their morning routine. The male surveyed the horizon while the female dove down for food, coming up every so often to shake her beak at her mate. It was only April, so the babies hadn’t hatched yet, but Kathleen knew there would be a nest hidden somewhere along the creek bank.
Within a few seconds, she began to hear it, the first stirrings as they prepared to take flight. It wasn’t really sound exactly, but sense, a feeling of portent, of expectation. She couldn’t figure out what their signal was, but they seemed to know with the habit of many seasons together, just when the moment to take off would come. Within a split second she heard the effort of their mighty wings, scooping the air beneath them in preparation for push off. She was never quite sure how they accomplished it, for one minute they were assembled there in the safe cove near the shoreline, and the next they were aloft, their wings spread wide and working furiously until they reached the perfect spot in the air. It was that moment, that sweet spot in the sky, which she came to see each morning, the spot where they began to soar.
Sighing, she let her eyes rest on their shadowy figures, already nearly lost to view on the horizon. Her students would smile if they could see her, she thought, and they wouldn’t be a bit surprised that Mrs. Harkness visited a pair of geese each morning just to watch them fly across the horizon. After all, wasn’t her classroom papered with inspirational sayings aimed at teaching her students to “take flight”? “If you can dream it, you can do it,” “What would you do if you knew you would not fail” and “Refuse to be average – let your heart soar as high as it will.”
And it worked, too – seems she had a gift for inspiration. Students were always coming back to the high school to tell her that. “I never would have made it if you hadn’t encouraged me,” they’d write on the Christmas cards which would come drifting in years later. “You made me believe in myself,” they’d tell her, stopping by to visit at the end of a school year.
Kathleen smiled ruefully to herself. “That’s all well and good,” she thought, “and certainly nice to know. I just wish I could work some of that magic on myself.”
Fact was, Kathleen Harkness had nearly given up on herself, given up on feeling as if she could soar into life with her wings spread wide, master of the sky around her and the earth below her. It was a talent only few could muster, she thought, and though she might be able to impart it to others, she couldn’t seem to awaken it in her own heart.
At least not anymore. Not since she lost Henry.
And she never would have believed that her Henry, with his gentle nature and soft spoken smile, his contentment with life that sometimes irritated her for its plodding regularity – how had Henry become the inspriation for her soaring?
But apparently he had. For ever since that awful day last fall, that just plain stupid day when he sat down to dinner and looked up at her with this stricken, surprised expression on his face before he fell right onto the floor, dead – ever since that day, she had been as hidebound to earth as if her feet were made of clay.
Putting her little car into reverse, she backed up slowly and carefully, turning the wheel sharply to avoid the rocks placed along the edge of the path. It was good she discovered this place, having passed it every day of her career with barely a second look, always in such a hurry to get to school, get her day started, get another project underway. Now it seemed she needed more time to set her bearings each morning, to remember the feeling of soaring, even if it came vicariously from a silly pair of geese.
Pulling the gearshift into “drive,” she glanced into rearview mirror, but there wasn’t a sign of those geese anywhere on the horizon – not a speck.
But she knew they would be there waiting for her in the morning.
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