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Wrenched from their lives in the warm south, what flits through the minds of migratory birds on their journeys north? North of Durham, some get battered by rain; north of Boston, some are detoured by late winter storms; north of the 49th, the sap’s not even running and the ground’s so hard, it will be weeks before they find a single worm to eat. Eaten by instinct they come, driven by the angle of the light or some signal we have yet to understand; one morning they wake and take wing, beating the air, beating and beating because their lives depend upon it. It’s strange to hear them, when they return—snow still hard underfoot, the trees still bare, the wind so sharp your eyes leak water. Waterfall of notes, that so-familiar song, you’d recognize it anywhere — cheer up cheer up cheer up, they sing, and no matter how your heart aches, it wants, it needs to answer.
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Susan Olding is the author of Pathologies: A Life in Essays, longlisted for the RBC Taylor Prize, winner of the Creative Nonfiction Collective’s Readers’ Choice Award, and selected by 49th Shelf and Amazon.ca as one of 100 Canadian books to read in a lifetime. Her work has been honoured multiple times by the National Magazine Awards Foundation and has appeared in The Bellingham Review, The L.A. Review of Books,Maisonneuve, The Malahat Review, The New Quarterly, and the Utne Reader, and in anthologies including Best Canadian Essays, 2016 and In Fine Form, 2nd Edition. She lives in Vancouver.
photo credit: John W. McDonald