La Toussaint

“The saints arose and appeared to many,” Matthew 27: 50-53

Opening the shutters one autumn morning, I saw large flocks of great white egrets landing in the field across the road, next to the stonewalled cemetery. They come every year to feed in our rich pastures before flying south to the Mediterranean and Africa. This year they arrived on November 1st, La Toussaint, all saints day. As soon as the egrets touched down, they rose up again, pushing off on their long black legs, slowly beating the air with massive meter-long wings, climbing high above the cemetery, then pausing, suspended, and floating back down, reprising a primordial ritual, one after the other— like spirits rising and settling, musical notes, as graceful as ballerinas. With them was a lone grey heron, a sentry standing elegant and still by the silhouetted crosses of gravestones decorated with bright flowers honoring the saints and our village’s dead.