Red Wings

By Iris Graville

March 2, 2015

Red Wings

A familiar sound breaks through the morning quiet as my dog and I head out for our usual walk alongside a rocky beach and the marsh that drains into it. Without even looking up, I recognize the rhythmic thwap, thwap, thwap overhead. It’s from the main rotor blade of a helicopter, airlifting someone from the rural island where I live to an emergency room on the mainland. Our local clinic can handle many illnesses and injuries, but some—strokes, burns, head traumas, heart attacks—need the hospital, and more quickly than the ferry can deliver patients to its doors. The helicopter’s white body with its red nose and tail skims across the blue sky. I say a prayer for those on board. For those who’ll provide care at the hospital. For those who entrust their loved ones to strangers.

The helicopter flies north. At the same moment, another flash of crimson flutters into view. A male, red-winged blackbird—bands of red on each black wing— darts south toward the marsh. He sings a low note that turns into a trill conk-la-ree. Just a few years ago, that wetland flooded in winter, became a stagnant puddle in summer. Channel dredging, a new tide gate, and plantings of beach pea and wild rye restored the red-winged’s home.

Two beautiful things, in flight toward healing.


Photo "Red-winged Blackbird" by Ana Maria Spagna; used by permission.

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