The dawn office, taken at 5 a.m. in the orchard on a cool morning. An ending of the night and a start to the new day, the work ahead still unformed, drifting through my mind like the mists in the creek bottoms below me. The waning half moon presides over the Southern late winter sky, one eye on the job in front and one eye on the job completed. The Big Dipper holds court to the north, its cup turned in welcome to the colder climes. The deep mysteries of the night office now wane with the promise of the sun.
This is the time of dogs and roosters. The night creatures are returning to their dens, ready to report back to hungry children the success or failure of their labors. The dogs in the valley, invigorated after a night’s rest, track the movements of each skunk, opossum, or fox as it crosses their domain. Agitated barking from all points of the compass signals a last hurdle for the weary parents.
I sit in my chair and let the sounds of this ending enter. The past few days I have hosted a cousin and his family. They were paying a visit to the last surviving sister of mine and my cousin’s mothers. As our aunt closes in on 97, she is still healthy and sharp; yet her long day must inevitably near its close. Her offices observed with intelligence and faithfulness, she has achieved what our old dependable scribe Berry would term “a complete life.”
One step in front of another and a life of daily cycles becomes a decade, a century, a millennium, a billion years. It’s not for my intelligence to know the duration. And only for others to judge the completeness of my projects, to wonder what tasks I left unfinished, to know whether my footsteps traveled on a purposeful path or toward a dead-end. I resolve to be like the moon: Does she wonder if she should alter her footpath? No, she sets her course and stays true, knowing her place, her duties, a life faithful and complete.
I gather my chair and return to the house, the rooster crows now being answered from over the ridge. The light of the sun, still a few hours below the eastern hill, respectfully waits for night to complete its work. My dogs disappear into the brush; the cool air moves, bringing the scent of a skunk disturbed by their explorations.
I leave them to patrol the farm and I enter the house, first one foot and then the other.