The soundness of night birds.

What is thought, after all, what is dreaming, but swim and flow, and the images they seem to animate?

-- Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping

At 9 p.m. the sky had developed its lightly incandescent evening blue, so I walked into my red shoes and out of the house. Stepping along down the night street, I was struck above all things by the myriad sounds of innumerable birds--jays, robins, starlings, cardinals, and all the others I could not see and cannot name. A tiny sparrow (a chipping sparrow, I think) jumped from child oak tree to child oak tree, keeping one tree ahead of me all the way down one short street, its tiny head, reddish brown (they call it rufous), giving it away as it flickered in the leaves. The lights on Middle Path are back on this week; they came back on for commencement and will stay on in the evenings until our upcoming alumni weekend concludes. It's a strange effect, the illumination of the path by white lights even before the sky is fully dark, even before stars have a chance to make themselves seen. It's a stranger effect if one walks the path's gravel recalling the bone-chilling cold in which one photographed these same trees, this same path, five months ago.

The birds chirruped and called and dashed and dipped on as I mused on my memory's multilocality, until one last sound set me looking for its source. A Canada goose's honk will arrest me in my tracks any time, but particularly at times when I expect the geese to be settling, tending goslings, resting up for the next migration. (In my fantasies, they are still wild, not suburbanized and industrialized and making do with puddles and retention ponds.) But here, in the early night, were geese calling to one another, flying somewhere out of sight but, I gathered from their sound, below the treeline. I stood in the road--it is possible once again, for this present short time, to forget oneself in the middle of a road without harm--and peered to the north until one, two, three silhouettes slipped by against a shard of night blue. The honks continued, intermittent, and I stood, stopped.