By Laura Moore

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Last week, in an effort to avoid the rush, I scheduled my dog's veterinary appointment at 9:30 in the morning. I figured most people would be wherever they intended to go by then, and I would be free to dash from one end of town to the other without enduring a series of seemingly unnecessary stops.

At first, my plan unfolded perfectly. Because we went second thing, instead of first thing, I was able to throw in a load of laundry, read 35 pages, and head out to the road in time to hit every single light and encounter a total of nine cars during the ten minute drive. The doctor's appointment went perfectly well and twenty minutes after Finn and I left the house, we were back in the car and heading home.

Twenty feet past the green light at the corner of Fishinger and Kenny Road though, our car was forced to sudden halt. Directly in front of us, gathered like flies swarming around a summer trashcan, we encountered a flock of birds frolicking and gathering for no apparent reason whatsoever. The asphalt was clear of dead animals, trails of food, and puddles of water, and there were no sticks or leaves to tuck into their beaks and cart off for good nesting material. Furthermore, it is cold as all get-out in Columbus right now, so it seemed rather imprudent of them to socialize when they should be getting their tail feathers somewhere much more habitable.

The birds, however, disagreed. They seemed perfectly happy with their existence there, in front of me, huddled in the center of a road, prancing around on chilled, cracked pavement, darting their heads back and forth, and up and down, eager to welcome incoming birds who were clearly late, but nevertheless welcome to join the party.

If I had to guess, I'd say there were at least a hundred birds in total, and either they had boldness in numbers or they were so consumed with their reunion they didn't notice my rather large mechanical object capable of inflicting a great deal of harm to them. They didn't bother to turn their heads toward me and acknowledge the fact that I had the green light, the priveledge to proceed, the power to steamroll, like a bully, directly through their spontaneous little party.

Shocked, and a bit perplexed, I sat there, staring at my unexpected delay, a delay no amount of planning could have avoided, watching for at least three or four full minutes before I decided to issue an "excuse me" of sorts, hoping my brief tap of the horn would encourage them to scoot over and let me through. 

Instead, the moment the sound escaped my car, all one hundred of them jumped like frightened children. All one hundred of them rose in waves, like I imagine a tornado would, dipping and diving, frantic and fearful, spinning and turning and scattering all around me. And as they dispersed like fractured particles of smoke fading in the sky, I felt horribly guilty pressing the gas. I felt horribly guilty that one of me desiring to go about her day without delays, managed to disturb so many of them, managed to cause so many creatures to spread, and swirl and disappear before they were ready to leave. 

As I moved farther and farther from the stretch of road where the birds gathered, I couldn't help but look into my rearview mirror in an effort to search for them. I couldn't help but listen for their chirping and wonder where their sudden flurry took them next. I couldn't help but feel nostalgic for their strange reunion, their bold bandying, their frenzied final minutes before my uninvited presence drove them away.

As my delay disappeared into the past, and I turned down my street, I realized those birds and their joy was the only real part of the morning that I'd truly remember. And I wondered how often it worked like that, how often the bumps in our road serve as an unexpected gift, serve to humble us, to force us to pause our lives and take notice of our small, but often overbearing, role in the world. And I hoped, for the sake of those joyful creatures that I selfishly drove away, that they found some place more beautiful to fly and someplace far kinder to land. Next time, I promise to wait my turn, to remain fixed in my moment while they get the chance to live theirs.

 
 
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In the midst of rusty reds, burnt oranges and golden yellows, it's the green leaves I can't stop thinking about. The unchanged ones--the ones holding on until the last minute--resistant to trendy shifts, draped in drab garb, waiting.

Waiting for others to have their moment first, for bare branches to open around them, for cooler winds to ignite their senses, for time to dangle longer, for the chance to move slowly, to think longer, to speak without all the noise, to observe, to learn, and to gather the courage to fly.

The rusty reds, the burnt oranges and the golden yellows get the attention. All sorts of people converge in the mountains to admire their peaking colors. Passengers gaze out their windows along northern highways, pre-schoolers tape fallen treasures on classroom walls. 

But it's the green ones we really should watch. 

The ones that teach us about patience.

The ones that remind us to be ourselves.

The ones that give us our last bit of hope--our last flare of color--before gray skies bleed through empty branches and blankets of snow cover the dark green blades of grass.