Ten years later I lived with Kim in rural upstate New York where tractors drove on the road by our farmhouse as often as cars. We had chickens and goats and tended a large vegetable garden, bright with zinnias and sunflowers the color of crayons. On Halloween we carved the biggest pumpkin from our patch and roasted the culled seeds to salt and have with homemade beer. We walked in the woods behind our house and across long, windswept fields. As we made our way up and down leaf-littered ravines, we told tall tales and staged elaborate regattas in creeks with boats made of leaves and sticks. Often, in our wandering, we started owls from daytime roosts. Later, at the farmhouse, we checked our Field Guide to Birds and debated whether it was a Barred or Short-Eared Owl we had seen. Kim preferred to stick to the facts while I was inclined to suggest more exotic sightings, like the Subarctic Form of the Great Horned Owl. These debates could last well into the evening. Similar debates continue to this day.
Once, in late spring, we saw what seemed to be a small apparition in the middle of a thicket. Flickering sunlight danced across the ghostly presence, illuminating its form against dark brush. Tall trees creaked in the wind. As we moved closer, the erect form remained still. We could see the “ghost” looking at us, staring from its isolated perch - a fledgling Turkey Vulture whose “naked” head appeared white in dappled sunlight. Not wanting to disturb the young bird in this quiet spot, we soon left. Later that summer, we found the body of a young vulture caught in the tangled brush of a wild rose. The bird had been unable to escape the rose thorns and died, caught with its young wings outstretched. Perhaps we had seen an “apparition” in the woods after all.