We release the birds on the equinox.
It is a day of tossing winds, a fresh coolness blessed by a scintillating flood of warm, golden light.
Evidence of the acreage's history as a farm shows up in rusted implements grown over by grasses. Old pasture. Empty barn, tumbledown fences.
And then there are the outside enclosures, where the rehab birds gain the strength to fly away.
Black wings circle overhead. A crow who had been released a week earlier is coming back to the enclosure to look for food. On this equinox, he is still in limbo, in transition between two worlds...no longer living fully within the world of humans but not yet entirely committed to the world of crows.
We gather in a circle by the lake. Girl children in gaily colored jackets take turns positioning themselves around the small basket cages set on the ground. One cage at a time, the girls lift the unfastened tops.
The House Sparrows zip off into the trees quick as a thought, and sit preening their gray feathers.
The American Robins fly off in three different directions, trailing their characteristic, chuckling whistle.
The mourning doves whir slowly over the heads of the onlookers. They seem confused by this sudden change in circumstance. One lands on a lady's shoulder. Another touches down on the large camera lens of a man photographing the event. These are shooed gently on until they flap up into a nearby tree.
But one mourning dove--cage open to the sky, urged to fly--would not leave.
She was not ready.
I lift the gossamer milkweed seeds into the wind and set them free. They float over the grasses and tiny, bee-buzzed asters; catching on withered stalks or unfurling indefinitely for all I know, all the way into November, where they will freeze hard to the ground until winter's scouring hammer cracks them open. Thus tested, they will wait in the dark, in the ice, in the cold. Until they are ready.
Seeds harvested. Seeds planted.
I think of this poem. And I wonder: Is it time?
How did it escape me that we were walking in Eden
plucking ripe apples on the equinox
one foot in darkness, the other in light
strolling down a country road in the Days of Awe?
How did I fail to faint with wonder
when our sister the snake waited for us
halfway across the road, stubborn in her staying power
seeking the safety of the grass only when we'd passed?
When will I learn that life is like a dream
full of strange and curious wisdom, wild as the wind
and just as liable to slip through our fingers
when attention wanders from the precious present?
When will I remember that no one sees it all?
We need one another to make the dream real,
to rise up in joy and in power, rubbing
against one another until we shed our skins.
—Joan Borysenko, Ph.D.