January 1, 1980 or ’81, was damp
and unseasonably mild.
The fog formed in clumps and pockets
as it has today, the breeze from the south
driving the moisture over the cold ground.
The youth group that I led—Yes,
that was my job: Youth Pastor
and Director of Christian Education.—
held an all-nighter at the local YMCA
after the Watch Night Service.
We swam, played volleyball,
ate snacks, drank sugar and caffeine.
At daybreak we gathered up
everyone and their belongings
and sent them home.
Or drove them home.
I drove them home.
Dennis rode shotgun.
Dennis and Beverly, just starting their family,
volunteered their time
with the youth group.
Our last student deposited at home,
we drove down a country road
in a foggy river bottom.
Above us, an owl
with four- or five-foot wingspan
took off from a tree branch
or a utility pole.
Dennis pointed it out; I didn’t know.
The owl stroked once or twice,
then swooped a bit lower
and gradually out of sight into the fog.
Thirty-plus years have erased a lot.
But not Dennis, and not the fog, and not the owl.