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Some nights are meant for walking at the water’s edge.

This was one.  Unremarkable night in an unremarkable summer.  The tame ocean’s quiet lapping at the ancient rocks.  Night is a chrysalis, womb of comfort and constraint, tight apron of a possessive mother.  Across the bay, the city lights – the screams and grunts of the young and drunken, the  party scene: the masquerading seasons of man.

On this side of the bay, where the wave and soft, reflected light lap against the shore: an amazing sight. Birdies of the DuskA line of geese, going on and on into the distance: all sitting within a foot of the shore – either on the rocks or in the water.  And all these birds, as if obeying some silent schedule, were involved in the preparation for sleep.

Some were preening their feathers; others were snoozing already – heads tucked in under wings or buried in their own feathers.  Young geese were stationed directly behind their parents on the shore, heads tucked into feathers, obeying the timeless ritual that had been passed down energetically, genetically, effortlessly.  And obeyed without question, without rebellion or protest.

The young birds fell into line with the tradition of geese, without a hitch.  The effortlessness of their sleep.  Some of their elders stood in shallow water, head tucked under wing – asleep it seemed, yet acutely aware of every sound and movement in their periphery.  I sat on a bench and drank in the dusk.  The inky sky.  The watery lights of weary skyscrapers downtown, the quiet lapping of waves, whispers of passing lovers hand-in-hand, and the quiet, orderly, reassuring line of sleeping geese.  This sleeping line had a sweetness, resolve and dignity to it that cannot be described.  It was for my eyes only.  Others passed by – they saw it not.

And the screaming of the party-goers across the bay continued.  I was there with them: I was their father, their mother, the ground that caught them as they fell, the momentary decay of lightning and fireworks, as they celebrated – perhaps – their graduation into the adult world.  A world of screaming, grunting, joking, quiet farting, and falling in the night.  These are humans, we are humans; we – the crown of creation, we who inherit or disinherit the earth.  We who control and command the elements.  We who send a man to the moon and hold a scalpel over the unborn son.  We who know that all we know is pretense and we spend our lives on camoflauge, upholstery and makeup.

And the geese sleep peacefully in a line, with no born leader and no agenda for the dawn.

They live on, and we are long-gone.

Sleep in peace.