Measuring a month

Wake, walk, eat, work; work, walk, eat, sleep.  Wake in the middle of the night, work, sleep. Wake, walk.

Days and weeks have blurred together. If I didn’t keep a calendar filled with reminders for “dept mtg”, “sr sem presentations”, “J b-day”, I wouldn’t know, is it Monday or Friday, already May or still mid-March? (Doesn’t help, that the sky continues to spit sleet.) And if I didn’t also fill the calendar with memories of “rainbow”, “first forsythia”, “forget-me-nots”, I wouldn’t know, has time actually passed, anything happened other than the odd progression of the semester, the escalating panic of the news, the accumulating silence?

I’m perfectly accustomed to spending long stretches of time on my own, but voluntarily, on backpacking trips through far-flung, wild corners of the country. Disorienting, now, to be stuck pacing the same sidewalks and streets, surrounded by people, all shuttered in their homes or sealed in their cars. On rare sunny days, it’s reassuring to see others out jogging in the parks or biking down the trails. But when it’s raining (or sleeting), I walk through a ghost city, sidewalks to myself.

There’s still the wildlife. Most of my calendar notes consist of weather or wildlife-spottings. Killdeer by Corning (4/16), beaver by the golf course (4/25), barred owl in Wilber Park (4/17), common mergansers in Neahwa (4/24). Bald eagle by the West End wetland, eagle along the river, eagle in the cemetery; eagle over the Price Chopper parking lot, infiltrating a kettle of vultures (4/29). Woodchucks everywhere – a grand one-day tally of six. Stopped counting the ravens and crows scavenging deer and squirrels from the roadsides. Dead porcupine after dead porcupine after dead porcupine, 4/7, 4/10, 4/28. (With less traffic, how is there still so much roadkill? As if there isn’t enough sorrow in the world right now.)

The eagles, in particular, bring a feeling of fierce joy, a welcome reminder of perseverance and recovery. There’s one that likes to perch above the railroad tracks, out River Street Access Road, next to the highway. I visit it nearly every afternoon; it lets me stand and watch it, while red-winged blackbirds swoop at it in distress and cars continue to whiz down the highway. After 5 or 10 minutes, I usually get tired or it gets bored; we go on with our lives. Fly away. Walk, work, eat, sleep.

If the forsythia and forget-me-nots aren’t enough of a clue, the calendar tells me we’re nearing the end of the semester. The best advice I have, at a time like this; especially at a time like this; always? Even if it’s sleeting, go for a walk. Watch for eagles. Brake for porcupines.