Living on Borrowed Time
by: Mike Lushington

        For some, the first signs of fall come with the first red leaves of a maple, or the proliferation of asters and goldenrods along the country roads. For others, it is that faint bite in the air on a day when the sun seems to sparkle in air suddenly clear of the humidity of summer, and the northwest wind brings with it an invigorating urge to be up and doing things. Still others notice that the sun edges ever more to the west at evening, retreating from the north in the face of what is to come, and settling beyond the hills at a time of the evening when it seems that we should still be able to be out and doing things.

        The voices of blue jays and crows seem particularly piercing, especially on still, cool dazzling mornings. For some, their voices bespeak fall just as clearly and forcefully as robins sing of spring, while others notice the flocking of the blackbirds and the goldfinches overhead.

        For me, though, it is the return of the geese.

        It was on the Labour Day weekend just past, one of those stunningly beautiful mornings of late summer. I had been walking for nearly an hour, ambling really, noticing the flowers, checking out mushrooms and, more than anything else, idling along, perfectly content to be alive and moving on such a morning. Sasha shared my mood. She checked out all the things that she was supposed to check out - where the neighbourhood fox had gone the previous night, whether there were any mice or voles to terrorize, what her old nemesis, the big porcupine that lives in an old spruce by the edge of the field, was up to - but somehow there was little intensity in her movements. She seemed content to amble, too, perhaps caught up in the late summer warmth and the freshness of the morning air.

        We had come up through the woods to an old trail that led up across fields and an overgrown clear-cut and were now approaching the top of the hill. I stopped to enjoy the view of the river and the hills opposite - and then I heard them. At first I wasn't sure where they were, but then I found them, a long arrow of them etched against the western sky - about thirty birds in all - heading toward the river and their daytime roosting spot on the Quebec shore - Canadas - the first of the fall, appearing now in summertime and, I knew, destined to remain here, flying their routine pattern from the big farm fields in Shannonvale, Dundee, and Balmoral, to the river - and back again, until they finally leave in the face of the first big winter snowstorms.

        Now, there was no denying the reality of the season - the sun, the sky, the winds - all seem warm and inviting still - indeed they are so - but there is a note of finality - the season is on the wing just as surely as are the geese. Suddenly, I felt a tug or urgency - there are so many things to be done before the snow comes, and now, I can no longer deny that it is time to be getting at them. I may still sit of an afternoon and enjoy the beauty of the river in sunshine and warmth, but I know now that the time is borrowed - and that the account is coming due.


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