Winter Day part I


I swear that goddamn squirrel is staring at me. Judging me. Sitting on his hind legs on a low pine branch- motionless but for his agitated tail- staring through my window. No, squirrel- there was no work today- so I’m just rattling this old piece of wood n’ wires, looking out at Thursday afternoon, ok?! And who do you figure put out that bird seed buffet that you’ve been getting fat on?

The thistle seed is in a feeder, hung on a wire from the very branch that Judge Squirrel is sitting on. Squirrels don’t desire thistle seed, but any other feeder seed, forget it. Leap, dangle, hang, shimmy- any kind of jackass acrobatics they can muster to get on that feeder, that swinging temptress. Those furry Willendas will chew right through the plastic. So I just throw the seed mix on the ground beneath the tree, and everybody eats family style- juncos, chickadees, sparrows, woodpeckers, squirrels n’ all. The a-social cardinals show up to dine at dusk, as do the mourning doves. (What the hell are they so sad about anyway?) But, my feathered friends- when the daffodils stick their rested heads through the squishy ground and the air smells like hope, and the sandhill cranes pass over as tiny dots way high up, then the seed party is over- you’re on your own.

I like seeing the goldfinches who fly in for the thistle seed- it’s like bacon to them. They’re dull brown but by spring the males will be brilliant yellow. Don’t it figure- the gals prob’ly do all the work and the fellers flit around in their…opulence. Watching them change color is like tearing days off the winter calendar. Hints of greenish yellow are already teasing us…

Last couple weeks I was hearing the owl most nights. Seems lonesome, him sitting out there through the long, black, frozen night in the same spot, hooting away in his precise and repetitious cadence. Ray told me over Christmas day cigars on his frozen deck that it’s owl mating season. Christ- talk about shrinkage.

The deer are cautiously happy- with no snow they’re much harder to spot in the woods. I don’t hunt ‘em, I just see ‘em. However, if YOU hunt ‘em and offer me some (in loin form or stuffed in a casing), I’m all for it.

The sky is the color of dryer lint and the grass is a sickly, pale green. Looks like it’s caught the flu and it’s begging for snow cover. But today brought a momentous sign of winter’s (slow) decline: the park district “garden registration” form came in the mail- hallelujah! Hands & knees in the dirt, radishes by early June. Pole beans & skeeters on the 4th of July, tomatoes-on-everything in August. Hell, I’m still eating onions from last years harvest- got a stash of reds & whites in the basement. With the way it is, soon that’s ALL I’ll be eating. Bad enough I gotta buy cheaper bourbon in the dead o’ winter… That venison would come in real handy right now, but my hunter pals are all crying defeat. “I been skunked!” Funny…they don’t look skinny. Maybe they’re just pissed about the cheap bourbon.

A few blocks from my house I see a sign now and again at the Episcopal Church: “Free Spaghetti Dinner- All Are Welcome”. Tempting, but is a plate of noodles & sauce worth all the…recruiting? Besides- aren’t the Episcopalians against dancing?

We’re now gaining over a minute of daylight each day- yeah, it’s getting noticeable. But I really don’t mind a coupla months of winter. The working outdoors can be rough, don’t I know it, but hibernation has it’s useful byproducts. Put the pile in order, put a match to last year. Recharge. Ruminate. But- as go the feathers of the goldfinch- your pondering will change to pining.

Meanwhile, kick a piece of ice down the street. It’s good.