Nightfall

Somewhere in the darkening field is a bird in the dusk. It flies up into the navy blue sky, wings whistling, and circles back in a wide loop to the dark thicket it came from. It calls from there—a short, nasal, agitated sound. It’s a woodcock, looking for company. They fly like a mad thing if you get too close.

It would be a quiet night if the peepers hadn’t begun to sing. They’re down by the old pond, and their calls pierce the twilight. The fog I meant to photograph flows down the hill in a slow-motion river. Stars are populating the sky.

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I wrap my fingers around the cool, damp legs of the tripod. It’s time to go. Yesteryear’s goldenrod stems, squashed flat by snow, blur beneath me. Thorns grab me from nowhere. Soon I’m at the top of the field, and look back.

Blinking towers. Last sunrays. First stars.

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I can’t resist. I set down the tripod, barely brush the touch-sensitive screen, and wait as the eye gathers light. Click. That one was blurry. Again.

Not a week ago I’d been in the house, windows shut, and heard noise coming from outside. I flipped off the light and opened the window. Coyote howls, clear and loud. They were close to the field I’m standing in tonight, blind except when I look at the sky.

Finally, satisfied. Up go the tripod legs. I find my way home more by memory than sight, humming “Oh Susannah” to keep the shadows away. The woods are patches of darkness and ill-defined lighter areas. Sometimes I wish I had an animal’s eyes.

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