Last Monday night, the wind picked up from the northwest. The temperature dropped from thirty degrees to twenty, and tiny flakes of snow struck my face. As I hurried to the house with an armload of wood, I wished I had put on some warm mittens. I won't need another reminder that it's time to keep my ears and hands warm when I'm outside.
It wasn't snowing at sun-up, but it was cold enough to freeze all the potholes and back waters along the river. The ground was covered with about a third of an inch of snow - enough to track a cat, as the saying goes. It is said that it's not an official snowfall unless there's enough to track a cat.
As I swept a path to the woodpile, I was scolded by the chickadees and nuthatches. Apparently they thought I should drop my broom and get them some birdseed. They followed me to the porch ad over to the large metal trash can where seed is kept. They directed their chick-a-dee-dee-dees towards me as I lifted the lid and held out a handful of sunflower seeds. Without hesitating, one of the little black-caps lit in my hand, quickly plucked up a seed, and was gone. Another took its place in my hand, then another. Soon all six were flying back and forth to feed at my open hand. They have proven to me that sometimes begging works.
As I fill the bird feeders, I notice the snow-covered seashells along the flower beds. The shells seem so far away from that warm, sunny beach where I found them. For a moment my mind drifts back to the knee-deep surf and brown pelicans diving into the sea. I can almost feel the hot sun on my bare shoulders. Then I snap out of it, as my stinging fingers remind me to put my mittens back on. Blue sky, salt spray, shells and sea birds are replaced by cold cheeks, chickadees, and snow.
My winter reality is not a harsh one, just different. I am thankful for the winter season and all it can teach me. I am humbled by the winter cold and the challenge it presents for survival. Mother nature will provide for all who learn her lessons. Sitting in my warm house with all its conveniences feels good, but deep down, I know what it would be like to live outside in the elements.
Driving along a country road, I notice a red-tailed hawk with immature plumage standing on the ground just off the road. He didn't even flinch when I drove by, and I sensed there might be something wrong, so I pulled over, got out and walked over to him. He just stood there and let me touch him with my foot - again, not normal. He finally flew to a tree limb nearby and waited for me to leave.
I noticed that the hawk had a bulging crop, and there was a pile of deer entrails nearby. This bird was so hungry that he was too weak to move. Apparently he had not been doing very well at catching mice and voles, and the cold was taking its toll. If he hadn't found the pile of entrails left by a deer hunter, he may not have lived. I wished him the best of luck and continued on my way, letting nature and the will to survive take its course.
A belated Thanksgiving wish to all, and hopes that we recognize all there is to be thankful for.
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