There’s a rhythm and pattern to our lives here on the Eastern Shore. For that matter, to all life, but it’s this life I’m contemplating today. Seasons come and go, time passes, the world turns. The Byrds (Rest in Peace, David Crosby) reminded my generation of this truth when they turned a few verses from the Book of Ecclesiastes into a rock anthem: “To everything/Turn! Turn! Turn!/there is a season/Turn! Turn! Turn!/ And a time to every purpose under heaven.”
Now, we’re on the cusp of that time of year. Yesterday, as my wife and I were driving home after a lovely brunch at the home of great friends, we passed several mega-flocks of geese gleaning the cornfields. I marveled at the sight, but it took me a while to realize what we were really seeing: the prelude to the geese’s northbound flight. Theories abound about how geese know when it’s time to fly north: instinct and experience, celestial cues from the sun and stars, even an internal compass triggered by Earth’s magnetic fields. Whatever the reason, the geese squawking in the fields the other day surely sensed that it would be time to head north, and, for us, maybe that’s the first true glimpse or whiff of spring.
Which brings me, with your permission, to this personal reflection: my first Musing was published in these pages 364 consecutive weeks ago—that’s a full seven years!—and during that time, I’ve come to enjoy—no, love—my little happy discipline. My first essay was entitled “Groundhogs and Geese,” and it considered the proposition that geese were better predictors of spring’s arrival than that burrowing rodent who lives up on Gobbler’s Knob near Punxsutawney. Geese just have an avian perspective that leaves poor somnambulant Phil in the dust, or, as it were, in the ground. Much to my delight, my initial essay appeared in The Spy the following Tuesday, and the rest is literary history, writ small. Thank you, Spy publisher Dave Wheelan. And, by the way, the image that introduces this Musing introduced that seminal one seven years ago; I use it on this anniversary to mark the turning of my own writing world.
This is hardly a perfect planet. There is much to rue and regret. Nevertheless, life, whether under, on, or above the seasonally frosted ground, still has much to offer: love, friendship, natural beauty, even groundhogs and geese. I can’t overlook the ugly in life—war in Ukraine, gun violence in California, outrage in Memphis—but neither can I ignore the gifts we are offered daily. It’s a delicate balancing act, but I carry my tray carefully. To lose it now would risk tumbling down a rabbit hole or a groundhog’s burrow. I want to stand here, awaiting the moment when all those geese will lift off and head back to their thawing Arctic tundra. I wish them God speed.
So I say again, there is a rhythm and pattern to our lives, just as there is rhythm and pattern to the lives of geese and groundhogs. I am persuaded that to the extent we are able to attune ourselves to these constants, then maybe our own internal compasses will point us in the right directions at just the right moments. We’ll know when it’s time to lift off and just where to land. That knowledge is within.
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.net.