As I look out across the snow-covered pasture, I try to imagine the farmer's herd of black and whites as they graze in the lush green grass of summer. That's a time when the land's natural diversity is at its peak, and provides for all the life it surrounds. January's snow-blown, quiet landscape is now the reality, and life's wonderful secrets are asleep under the frozen ground. The only sign of life is a single kestrel, perched on a high wire bordering the pasture. Patiently the little hawk waits, watching for a vole to venture out of the snow.
At Organic Valley, another little kestrel is doing the same, watching as he sits on a branch above the bird feeder. Once again he is rewarded for his patience, as he quickly flies down and grabs a vole that ventured too far from the safety of the snow bank. It will be minus 30 degrees tonight, and the vole will sustain him through the long, cold January night.
Down the road, a farmer has spread manure across the snow-covered corn stubble. It was like ringing the dinner bell for the crows. They came in small groups from every direction to pick through the spattered snow for bits of corn and grain or whatever else is edible. An opportunity for a free meal may not come again soon. In the spring, when the snow melts and the ground thaws, the farmer will plow the corn stubble and manure into the earth. The corn will feed his cattle, and again the cattle will provide a meal for the crows on a cold January day.
A fat old Fox squirrel visited the bird feeders today. He is the same one that has occasionally come around for the past five years. I can tell who he is by the distinctive notch in his left ear. I call him Fred, and he lets me get pretty close to him as he's busy nibbling sunflower seeds. The few gray squirrels in the area always move over when they see the larger Fox squirrel come into the yard. Fred always gets his pick of the best places to eat.
Each night, I look for the little Flying squirrels to make an appearance at the window feeders. I haven't seen them since fall, and I'm beginning to wonder what happened to them. They are always a joy to watch, and I miss them, so I wait for them to return.
I have to admit, I'm getting a little tired of these sub zero temperatures, but I'm staying warm and working within. Like the bear, who hibernates in winter, I have a lot of time now to go into the Self, to reflect on what has passed and deliberate the future. This is a time for working on spiritual growth and confronting denials. But unlike the bear, I do my meditating with my eyes open. I see the white landscape and feel the bitter cold. I can't help but long for the first promise of Spring.
For me, the first hint of Spring is when the Great Horned owls begin to nest. That started a couple of weeks ago, but it's a quiet event, and the pair of owls do very little singing while the eggs are being incubated. Within a few days after hatching, the adult owls will sing their approvals to each other: "Ho-Ho-Hoo-ho-ho-ho." For me, it's the first love song of Spring.
For now, Spring is just a small flame in my heart, but it will rise up when the timing is right. Of course, you can always turn up the flame of Spring a little higher by sitting down at night with a cup of hot tea to page through those new garden catalogs, or by building a couple of new bird houses. The timing is just right for those kind of things.
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