I took my twin sons to visit my parents this Saturday, a weekly two hour trip we take to spend the day. My toddler sons love going to visit Mimi and Paw Paw each week, and we spend most of the daylight hours outside in their big backyard.
My parents’ house has an enclosed back yard which is about an acre in size and enclosed by tall plank fence. Their yard used to be smaller than it is today, but after a neighbor decided to sell their yard, my parents quickly took the offer, which doubled the size of the lot. After they had the fence put up for the yard, they had a large deck built right outside the backdoor.
Each Saturday, I watch my sons run up to my parents when we arrived, only to run out the back door to the back yard to drive their big bikes. Sitting out in lawn chairs while sipping iced tea, we’d sit and talk while watching the boys run wild, chasing each other while laughing.
While we were out this past Saturday, my mom and I would stare up towards the blue sky, looking for birds and pointing them out to the boys. As we talked and scanned the clouds, I saw three buzzards fly into view circling high overhead like hang gliders from some distant mountain. The more I watched for them to fly off, I saw that they kept circling, nearly hovering with their oversized wings, like toy birds on a child’s mobile playing over a crib. Watching them circle, I pointed them out to my mother.
“Have they been around here long?” I asked.
My mother nodded and pointed at them. “We’ve seen them around here for a few days. We think they must be nesting somewhere near here, but we’re not sure.”
I nodded. “Yeah. I just wonder what died?” And the conversation went off in some other direction.
But still I watched the buzzards, my eyes transfixed on them while my sons played like only children can. It was strange really, seeing these birds, totems of death, beings that appeared when the dead had begun to decay, and at the same time seeing my sons play like kids who have no idea of death, of harbingers, omens against the eventual darkness that falls on us all. I kept watching them both, the vultures and my sons, my mind carrying the dual possibilities that we all share, life and death with each breath we take.
As the afternoon faded into evening, I knew the future would hold days where I would have to explain death to my sons. But not this day, I thought. Instead, I watch the cycle of nature and my children growing up. For now, I will merely watch the buzzards circle… Time moves on.
This is an article in my Subdivision Journal series. I am trying to use mindfulness to observe nature in my neighborhood. Other articles in the series:
Meeting With Magpies
The Tree Blossoms
The Dead Bird
A Budding Tree
An Encounter With a Falcon
The Carrying of Sounds
The View from My Window
Carl Wade Thompson is a poet, essayist, and the graduate writing tutor at Texas Wesleyan University. He has published poetry and memoir essays in The Mayo Review, The Concho River Review, One in Four, Anak Sastra, The Galway Review, The Blue Collar Review, Piker Press, The Eunoia Review, Blue Minaret, Nebo Literary Magazine, Alphelion Literary Webzine, and Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas. He lives on the outskirts of Fort Worth, Texas. His poems explore the link between the urban and the rural.
Photo by Olesia Bilkei