My father, now very, very old, near ancient, lives alone on his farm. Thick, insistent vegetation shrouds the buildings around his house. Giant trees fall and are left to rest. Structures, once useful, slump and collapse, succumbing to a lush profusion. A mourning dove coos behind me as I step on to his porch. She sounds three deep round notes, like monotone prophecies. Implacable mosquitoes swarm in the dry August heat; frantically, I swat to keep from being eaten.
My father greets me, smiling widely, and declares, “ The robins have gone.” He has said that at this time all my life. Then he always says, “They were here yesterday and today they are all gone. They know when to go.” I know he is right. I have inherited his keenness for subtle changes in our Midwest seasons. That morning, as I stepped outside of my home, I had smelled a hint of something, a coolness, maybe a dryness, something different. Fall is coming, I thought.
In February near its end, over the phone, because wicked weather sometimes keeps us apart, he declares each year, “The back of winter is broken. Oh sure, we may get some storms and more snow, but the worst has passed.” I know that, too. Today the robins, prophets of spring and fall, have gone. I see he has left a bowl of bones on the porch for the raccoons.