Ghosts

Ghosts

The peregrine falcon circled overhead, a fighter jet looking for a target. I thought of my Tuskegee Airman friend, Beverly Dunjill, a Korean War fighter pilot, who showed me a photo of him in a jet in the air, wingtip to wingtip with another jet, the other pilot young Gus Grissom, who would become an astronaut, the two of them looking up from their cockpits, waving and smiling, la-di-da. We see peregrine falcons frequently; they nest on the bluffs of the river. We never tire of watching their artistry and grace—and lethalness.

A pair of pelicans glided southward in courtship, graceful as ballet dancers on point. Eight or more buzzards flew counterclockwise. And two red-headed woodpeckers, a rare sighting, worked the electric poles with their beaks. The hammering of pileated woodpeckers, the muffled warning of a barred owl. Then there were the blackbirds, the mewling catbirds, and the crows and the robins and the cardinals, and the screeching bird babies chasing down their parents for regurgitations.

A doe grazing at the creek bank, dragonflies hovering like drones, the path aswarm in blue hairstreak butterflies (a bellwether species and as tiny as a postage stamp), above them the giant swallowtails. Sunning red-tail skinks stretched out on flat rocks and tiny blue-tail skinks scurrying out of the way. The tock-tock vocal warnings of chipmunks.

All this did I see and hear on my hour long walk.

You need to walk and watch, children, to know what your grandchildren will miss. Your rocking chair, like fatty food, will comfort you, but it will not tell the truth.

You must read the news, the report on four hundred U.S. inland lakes having lost eighteen percent of their oxygen, the fish soon gasping. You realize that everything you see on your walk might soon be extinct—every butterfly, every bird. The trees themselves, the young oak trees will not live 50 years. You have seen a 300-year-old oak tree, and you know.

You have been blessed, and those who come after will curse your name, for what you did not do. You did not love your earth. Only ghosts of living things will fly and walk the earth. The songs will not be recalled. The history, of the cardinal perched on the reeds and trilling madly, will not be told.

 

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