I could swear I can hear the earth breathing in and out around me. The tiny sounds that I would attribute to rustling leaves, except there aren’t any leaves in the trees. Or to the drip of water from rock to rock, except it isn’t water dripping. It’s as if the thick carpet of dry leaves shifts, one click at a time, as somewhere, buried beneath it, the earth begins to push the new year out from within.
Two birds are singing to each other in turn, a falling call. C-B, calls one. A-G, responds the other. C-B. A-G. C-B. A delay, then A-G, almost on top of the next C-B. And then they sound together in faulty thirds.
The breeze picks up, and now it really is the rustle of dead leaves, still clinging stubbornly to branches, that whispers. A leaf taps against an adjacent branch. The birds have shifted. Part 2 in the duet has notched up a degree, as if trying to match pitch. C-B. B-A. C-B. B-A. And another shift, until they are a quarter tone apart. Part one drops a pitch, and they sing in unison.
The air spreads out all at once, like a muscle relaxing with a whoosh that can’t be heard or seen, only felt, spreading warmth across mossy rocks—dull brown-green and vivid lime-green. Across empty seed pods quivering in the breeze. Across fallen trees reduced to mahogany piles of sawdust. Across cedar trees growing from sedimentary rock, clinging to life by a thread. And across me, the lone intruder, sitting high on a hillside soaking in the sunlight.