Friday, February 12, 2010

Winter Birds

I know he is there. I can feel his keen marble eye, staring, watching every move that I make. Just over my shoulder, on the other side of the windowglass, from his perch on the blue glass feeder. I wonder what he makes of me. Does he see me as his benefactress, for indeed, with my bags and bags of sunflower seeds at the ready, through every season of the year, that is certainly what I am. Or instead, am I just a poor featherless creature trapped inside a rather large cage, a curiosity to be pitied for my obvious lack of sufficient avian qualities.

Birds have always fascinated me. Each as delicate as an orchid, as wild as an ocelot. How I hate to see them in cages. When I was little I used to traipse off by myself quite a bit, a fact which doubtless caused my parents no small amount of consternation. Often, I would head down the lane to a neighbor who had what I considered to be the remarkable good fortune to have a pen full of chickens smack in their back garden. Slipping away after breakfast to squat down by their coop, I would hold one-sided conversations with those iridescent creatures for hours. My father followed me once on my rounds to the chicken coop and snapped photographic evidence of one of my many visits.

If you think about it for a moment, birds have been present every day of our lives. They are our soundtracks, our garden accessories. They follow us to the seashore, flit around us on the mountain pathway. The scarlet Cardinal who brings such colour to the naked trees on the greyest winter day. The Great Horned Owls who sit in the oak tree outside our bedroom and call to each other in deep, haunting voices at midnight. The Robins who line up in the rose bush each summer afternoon around two, politely taking turns to bathe in the stone bird bath. The cheerful Purple Finches who return every year to nest in the front porch ferns, singing arias of glee all the long day long. I open the windows to hear them.

The Canada Geese who fly in perfect formation over my head on a golden autumn morning, spreading wonder in their wake.

The Pileated Woodpecker who every now and then chooses our very own garden as a place to astonish those lucky enough to catch just one tiny glimpse of his glory.

I am appreciative of their presence every single day, but never more so than in winter.

The black and white world of February desperately needs the flash of their colour, the lilt of their song.

Winter Scene

by A. R. Ammons

There is now not a single

leaf on the cherry tree:

except when the jay

plummets in, lights, and,

in pure clarity, squalls:

then every branch

quivers and

breaks out in blue leaves.