Now, more than any other time of the year, I find myself at the mercy of the natural elements. When you heat with firewood the way I do, you stay home when it's cold and keep the house warm. When the temperature is below zero every night, I'm humbled, and I make it through by respecting the warnings.
If the cold weather is extended for a week or maybe two, it begins to feel like a sentence. If it snows day after day, you begin to feel like you're on the chain gang with a shovel in your hands. All complaining aside, though, it's part of the deal you make with Nature: Live here, under her conditions, and be grateful for every season. I'm used to making adjustments for wintertime, having chopped wood and carried water most of my life. It's given me a world of insight on nature that I would never otherwise have experienced. So, let it blow and snow right up to my knees, and get so cold that my spit will freeze! I've learned to be ready for it, let 'er come.
The weekly total for snowfall is 10 to 12 inches, added to the 6 to 8 inches from last week. Most of the deers' legs disappear under the snow as they walk, but they plow through with ease. They are now forced to browse on low-hanging shrubs and the ends of tree branches. They will eat almost anything chewable—cedars, pines, willow, dogwood, poplar, and so on. It's still a long way to April, and the deer could be in for a tough winter.
Every winter I get questions from people who feed the birds, who ask me how they can convince a hawk not to catch their birds. This is a very important question, as it gives the birder a chance to examine the reason they are feeding the wild birds. If it’s only to see the birds and enjoy their beautiful colors and songs, you may be missing an opportunity to learn much more from them. Watch them closely, and they will teach you the ways of their lives. The more you learn from all of them, the more understanding and compassion you will have. You will see the hawk's true beauty, too, and how his life is so closely tied to that of the songbirds. When anyone first begins feeding the birds, it's important to observe without favoritism towards any of them. Open your heart and accept any that come to visit you, and learn from Nature's real teachers.
Monday morning ... brrrrrr! Still, quiet, and 21 degrees below zero. Sure glad I carried in enough firewood last night to keep me warm today. I did go out to feed the birds at sunup, and the little chickadees were waiting for me. They came as soon as I offered them some sunflower seeds in my hand. One of them lit on my hand while another sat on my shoulder and scolded in my ear, and yet another one landed on the top of my hat. This is always fun, and it's worth facing the cold for. The hungry little chickadees came and went for about ten minutes, and they had no fear of me. I finally noticed the cardinals and juncos were patiently waiting in a nearby bush, so I filled the feeders and threw some seed out on the ground for them. It felt good to be back in the house, warming my cold fingers by the woodstove.
Yeah, it's been a wintry December and the cold isn't over yet, so I have no choice but to relax and take it as it comes. This is a good time of the year to play a tape that always puts me in a good mood. The songs of "The Frogs and Toads," never fail to take me to a warmer place and time.
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