Walking in the “South End” of Turners Falls where I once lived, is a journey among faded images of a thriving past. The backsides of abandoned factories, cluttered with rusty machinery and makeshift sheds, line the power canal that still demonstrates the vision and ingenuity of an early entrepreneur.
Brick block apartment houses, once home for a factory’s many laborers, now struggle for survival as renovated rentals. These, together with the two-mile canal, form lingering vestiges of a departed prosperity.
When I lived here, it was not my normal habit to walk the canal after dark, preferring my exercise pre-dusk along the quiet bank road. On this revisit, though, I am late and begin my stroll well into the early setting of the winter sun.
This difference in timing brings me to an unexpected encounter with a flock of braying geese. The canal is an overnight stop on the flyway, and I know that tomorrow the birds will have departed. As I pass, geese are bedding down on the high marshy area where the canal broadens into an area of slower current and calmer water.
Suddenly separating themselves, a group of nine makes a last pre-sleep foray, lifting off the inky landing way formed by the straight-edged banks, and blending, nearly invisible, with the shadowed sky. Beneath the birds’ circled flight, a factory’s single window light pokes out its solitary beam, to stab and measure the flowing current on its journey to the sea.
A passed night light, a lonely current, a flight of geese, and the dark of a late winter’s evening, form a mosaic memory of a few precious moments. Tomorrow, all will have departed. At first, I think about how to capture this scene in my memory; perhaps to make some descriptive use of it later. Then, I realize I must treasure such moments now, and not depend too much on any future ones I can only imagine will be my due.
After all, tomorrow’s dawn may find me, too, gone.