While driving along the gravel river road at sunset tonight, I slowed for a flock of blackbirds. There were a couple of hundred of them in the road and in the drive that leads to a picked cornfield. The truck that left the field with a load of shell corn no doubt lost a little as he turned onto the road. The clever blackbirds found the new yellow kernels and were taking advantage of it. At first glance, they looked just like Red-winged blackbirds, but then I noticed that not a single one of them had any wing markings; they were all shiny jet black. These were special blackbirds from the far north, known as Brewer's blackbirds, and they were just passing through on migration. It's not often I get to see them, though once every 5 or 6 years a couple might spend a winter at the bird feeders. They have beautiful black-feathered faces, and eyes as yellow as lemons, like those of their cousins, the Purple grackles. It has been a couple of years since I last saw any of these special blackbirds.
A misty rain came Tuesday afternoon, and the bare tree trunks along the wooded valley looked very dark and cold. They clash with the colorful wet grass in the meadow. A tranquil, misty stillness came over the valley. Often as not, it's the crows who break the silence and change the mood. As quick as that, they found where the Barred owl is roosting for the day. The excited crow calls bring other crows, and in no time there are 50 or more keeping the owl awake. The fun may last for a half hour or so before the crows fly off to look for some other good fun things to do. When all else is quiet, the crows always know how to get a party going. The sun made a brief appearance Thursday morning, very early. I watched the sun rise over the horizon as a great yellow-orange ball, then disappear into the waiting clouds, not to be seen again all day. Although the sun's appearance was brief, the effect was everlasting. For just a short few minutes, the horizon was a beautiful rose pink, but it quickly faded to blue-gray as thick clouds blotted out the sun's colorful rays. It doesn't take much of your time to watch the sun rise, and it's always time well spent.
A cattail pond showed its quiet, early morning beauty. The glassy still pond mirrored the morning clouds and seemed to double this pleasurable scene.
I'm still having a little trouble letting go of the sounds of summer. The landscape has become so quiet, compared to those warm months. The songs of the summer birds were so beautiful that they helped drown out the noise of a car passing by on the road. I'll tuck those songs away and bring them out of my memory to help on those sub-zero days ahead. Before long I'll have to remember what the land looked like when it wasn't covered with snow.
The coming new year must see some change in our attitude towards the natural world. There must be many changes in our priorities as consumers. There must be changes to strengthen our faith in community. It's past time to consider adjustments in our lives for the better of all. Don't wait to make your resolutions at the last minute. Start now to resolve towards a nature-friendly life in the new year.
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