She looks up, realizes she’s been wheeling her bike on auto-pilot toward the parking exit. A young man in shorts and Birkenstocks lifts his hand toward Lindsey as he waves a protest placard at the employees leaving in their cars. The students are still keeping up a presence as the drawn-out negotiations continue over the proposed new hospital park access route.
Lindsey takes a breath and smiles. “Joshua. How’s it going?” She’s gotten acquainted with a few of the students over the past months. He’s the one who was handing out Birth Announcements a month earlier, with photos of the engagingly homely barred-owl chicks spotted in the area of the park proposed for road construction.
Joshua grins and pushes back his billed cap. “Thank God I survived finals. Got an internship this summer with Northwest Stream Stewards.”
“Hey, that’s great. You know they helped me with my native-plant project. I’m downstream from here.”
“Awesome!” He gives her a thumb’s-up. “Any time you want to take a turn here, we’ve got plenty of flyers to pass out.” It’s an ongoing joke he’s been playing off Lindsey as he’s seen her leaving work over the past weeks.
This time she pauses. “You know, I might just do that. See you around, Joshua.”
The encounter cheers her briefly, as does the bike ride. She takes a second loop through the park and dismounts to walk her bike along a narrow trail threading a grove of old cedars and big-leafed maples.
As she pauses to breathe in the moistness and the quiet of this oasis in the midst of town, she feels a light touch on her bare arm. A green bit of maple leaf is stuck to the skin. She peels it off and notices a couple more pieces drifting down past her face. She squints upward.
Above her on a big, mossy limb of an old maple, two fledgling owls—all downy fluff, gangly talons, and comical feather tufts emerging around their faces—clutch the branch and lean out to watch the drifting leaf bits. Shoulder to shoulder, they sway side to side to the rhythm of the leaves’ swooping glides. When those reach the ground, one of the pair sidles along the branch to an intersection of another leafy bough, where it plucks a new piece with its beak. It returns to its nestmate and leans out to release the green bit. Again they sway, leaning together like Tweedle Dee and Dum, rapt in contemplation of the dance of the leaf through the air.
Lindsey, craning upward, feels a grin stretching her face. She’s filled with the sheer wonder of this world she’s lucky enough to inhabit along with these experimental young owls.
She turns her bike back along the trail, then stops short. Red surveyor’s tapes dangle from wooden stakes following a path beneath the big maple, right through the cedar grove toward the hospital. It hits her in a sudden kick to the heart: This is the proposed route for the new access road.
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