The moon is a crescent and the stars are hardly visible behind the light foggy clouds which have hovered over us all day. The night is low and our walk was a quiet one. For such a cold day the air was surprisingly warm and smelled sweet, like the new white flowers appearing in thick, popcorn clumps on the trees.
Duncan was restless but I was aimless, meandering wherever he led, alternately watching my feet strike the pavement or looking up at the sky for a quick glimpse of our fickle moon, pointed on both ends and as sharp as a cartoon smile.
I have been feeling lonely and have noticed I have been distancing myself from my friends, content instead to come home and lay on the bed with the cats curled around me while Duncan gnaws on a tennis ball at my feet. I've been making dinner late and falling asleep on the couch, the windows and patio door forgotten and left open, waking only after I was so cold I had no choice but to get up and crawl under the covers in bed for the last hour of the night. Philip Glass' "Mad Rush" has been on a nearly constant loop, the piano notes rising and falling, the repetition as soothing as balm. I have not been sad, just living alone and making one long note of it.
And so tonight, on our last walk, while Duncan watched for rabbits, I watched for the moon, and when she finally peeked out, along with a single star, I closed my eyes and allowed myself to be guided by Roo, the rhythm of our steps a soft voice saying, "This way, this way, this way." I made a wish, softly, under my breath so that not even Duncan heard it. But the smiling moon must have and a moment later there was a whoosh above our heads as an enormous owl swept down low, perhaps only fifteen feet above us, the soft white of its chest illuminated and clear, each feather a thing of crystalline beauty. It alighted at the top of a pine like a dark Christmas star and swiveled its head all the way around to watch us and perhaps a mouse scuttling through the newly green grass.
A moment later my eye caught the shape of something else, something moving across the low night sky toward us, something slow and dark, round and glimmering at its edge, a rain cloud bearing a silver lining. It danced around a building, slowed and hovered above us for just a moment before finally sinking downward, landing soundless and bounceless at my feet. I bent forward and picked up a silver foil balloon with the words "Happy birthday" written across its shimmering surface.