Tonight was the Annual Board Meeting. I was collecting kindling from the campfire area when over the clattering of wood I heard a haunting wavering wallow. My initial thought was wood duck, but it seemed too loud and too bold for a wood duck. To me, wood ducks always seem surprised when calling out. I’ve never heard wood ducks save for when I was right at the pond. My second thought was common loon. I’m familiar with the call of the loon from literature and television, but I don’t believe I’ve ever heard it in person. Not like what I heard tonight anyway. (I did hear a loon birding on foggy August morning with a coworker, but this was far more harrowing a call.)
I listened with half an ear for the remainder of the night, but the night remained silent other than the wind winding through the trees and missile acorns thundering down. I asked my boss if she had heard the call; she hadn’t, but suggested it was some species of owl. Now y’all know I would love for it to be an owl, but nothing in the melancholic call struck me as owlly.
As soon as my duties were over, I scampered down to the pond, by which I mean I made my way down there over roots and giant steps with great caution. Once at the pond I extinguished my trusty cellphone flashlight and melted into the night.
I lay down on the dock (because that’s what one does) and just absorbed the essence of the night. The north wind blew the waves toward me and beyond, some time in the next few days those waves will find their way into the Hackensack River and then the Raritan Bay. The insects sang their final songs of summer. I imagined the swarms of late warblers, like a very tardy white rabbit, scurrying overhead; making their way south where food is more plentiful. No birds mourned the passing of summer, but it was one of those perfect autumn nights. The forest is fully steeped in autumn now, in sights and smells and it’s not more evident than when the rains come or the night cloaks the forest.