Phoebe, a Canadian goose, does not waddle as most geese do. Years ago, her left foot had become entrapped in a hunter’s snare, crippling her tarsus, and leaving her with a slight bobbing list as she walked. As she fought to free herself from the trap, she had also broken one her wings; forever leaving her unable to fly.
Today, under a cloisonné sky with brass-edged clouds, Phoebe is making her way down a path that skirts the banks of a nameless stream. The stream, like her stride, is unhurried, yet broken at times with smooth rocks and fallen branches. The stream’s pace between its banks is a soothing whisper as it makes its way down to the sea.
The narrow, but well-worn path Phoebe travels is of loose, red dirt and speckled with orange summer light that streams through a canopy of fluttering oak leaves.
The air is buoyant with the teasing smell of lavender, creeping pink geraniums, blue larkspur and wild, budding raspberries. A rabble of butterflies dances above the swaying meadow grass to her left. Overhead, skylarks dart to leave purple brushstroke over the horizon.
All-in-all, this is a day borrowed from heaven, holding a special aura denied even to twilight hours and cloudless moonlit nights. A day impossible ever to be repaid or returned - one that only grows more cherished in retrospect.
It is difficult to know the temperament of a goose, especially if their walk seems halted and a wing hangs a bit askance from their flank. But, possibly one might glance Phoebe’s character by what seems to be a constant smile on her bill. Or better yet, the smile it brings to one’s own face when seeing her.
Phoebe comes to a fork in the path. One leads left, deeper into the hilly meadow with its towering grasses. The other turns slightly right, ending in a cove on the bank of the stream. An ancient oak is anchored there and beneath it sits a fisherman. Phoebe takes the path to the right.
The fisherman’s name is Francis; his back is against the tree, his knees akimbo. Cherry scented smoke rises from a pipe he holds in one hand as he reads from a book in his other. His fishing pole is angled over the water, levered by a rock, its handle secured by yet another stone. The line from his pole is but a string, momentarily broken by a red and white bob before disappearing beneath the water. There is no bait on the silver hook beneath the water; its barb purposefully naked and without pretense.
Phoebe is not afraid of the man, for he is the one who helped her from the hunter’s snare, set her broken wing and cared for her as she healed. And, somewhere deep within her, she understands that the scent of the rose never leaves the hand of the giver.
Phoebe’s face, mellowed in the tender light of the summer day, comes into the shade of the tree, and sidles next to the man.
“Ah, it’s you, my lady,” Francis says. “You’ve made a fine day even better.” He sets down his book and pets her head.
She looks at him and infinity seems reflected in the ebony of her eyes. She nuzzles the book he has set aside.
“Ah, you want that I should read; is that it?” Phoebe gently quacks and Francis smiles.
“It’s good to have a friend who shares the love for poems; their words are balm to the soul – leaflets of alms to the exiled.” He strokes her head again. “And that’s what we all are, aren’t we, Phoebe, fugitives?”
Francis picks up the book lying beside him and begins to read:
"The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky. …”
As he finishes, he looks down at Phoebe who seems so at peace beside him. “You understand, don’t’ you girl.”
Wind across the stream quietly moves the string dangling from his pole. The line gently billows, sail-like, first left then right and then settles unmoving; leaving the water beneath undisturbed.
Phoebe nuzzles the book once more.
“Another one, you say?” He browses the pages, stops and nods his head. “Now here’s one I’m sure the Author meant to be freely shared.” Softly, he begins to read:
“The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want…"
Maya Angelou “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”
Psalms 23 - KJV
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