The other day I sat on the couch with my daughter, laughing. She had grabbed the wool beanie cap from my head and popped it onto her own head. She took a bunch of selfies and cracked herself right up. And it cracked me right up. And we laughed about it.
She isn’t small anymore. That happens, of course. All those trite things other parents say are true after all. “They grow up so fast!” and all that crap isn’t wrong even if it is hackneyed. That moment laughing over the silliness of a hat was a gift. I’ll be sticking that one in my wallet to carry around.
The sun rose in the east today. Exactly in the east. No northeast or southeast about it. Spring rolls around, even if if feels like winter. At least the sun is higher and stronger. The blackbirds seem to notice that. Every day is just a little bit different, sweeping through the seasons. Day to day I find it hard to notice the difference, but I keep looking. That is the way with all of us. My daughter changes but not enough from yesterday to notice. I change too. That is why marking the moments, like the equinox or laughing on the couch, is important.
Tucked in the corner of the yard, under the big spruce, old toys lie scattered. Those toys were once a world. Now they are forgotten, not even seen they have been there so long. The sun bleaches them and the grass grows around them. What day did they get left there? What story was created just before they were left there for the last time? How many days, how many seasons, have passed since that world was real?
Frost melts in the new spring sun. Green shoots push aside last year’s dried stalks. My children will be taller today than they were yesterday. Those toys will fade just a little more. One day I will pick them up and find a place for them. One day my daughter will head off into her own Spring. I should pay attention. I should notice the days. I should hold onto the stories so they do not fade. I should enjoy this glorious day, today. The sun is high already.
Frosty. That was this morning. Grass, branches, porch railing, stones–all frost-covered. The air was still. I rose before the sun crested the mountains, walked into the morning. The ground was frozen, so walking was easy and quiet. I wore a down jacket.
Despite the cold, a few degrees below freezing, the blackbirds sang. Song Sparrows tried their best to stake out their territories. Over a hundred geese flew overhead. Yesterday’s puddles sported white caps of ice.
In the river, a beaver broke the water’s surface, swimming around the bend. A mink bounded along the shore, pausing to watch me as I watched it. The river babbled its usual course under the bridge.
When the sun appeared, it spread light across the fields, melting the frost. In the shadows, ice held on. Soon enough, those crystals would droop and disappear. The puddles would be free. Bluebirds would sing as the breeze arose.
Freezing nights and warm days. That is just what sugar makers need. There will be some boiling today. I hope to take my empty gallon jugs up the road to Shelburne Sugarworks today to get them filled. They say they will have sugar on snow, but I’m not sure there is snow to be had. Maple cotton candy, perhaps. My guess is they will be boiling today. The weather is just right.
As the day lightened I stood on the edge of the field, listening. A Northern Cardinal called, then another. A Song Sparrow sang, just once. Two geese flew overhead, honking quietly, as if they needed to talk but did not want to wake anyone. I did not hear the woodcock again.
My wife had woken me to tell me she heard a woodcock, then tossed open the window and we heard it together. It bleated its noisy song, then rose in circles and dropped back to the field, its feathers whistling as it fell. Rain dripped off the off. I went outside to try to hear it again, but by the time I stood there listening, its dance was over.
The morning was warm enough to leave hat, gloves, boots in the mudroom. It smelled like spring–the earth thawing, grass stirring, mud, last fall’s rotting leaves. Ice, however, lingers in the shadows. On the north side of the house a triangle of ice nestles the compost bin. The compost–hard to stir as feathers of ice burst from its crumbling body. Between stones, ice frames pebbles. Below trees, logs of ice under logs of wood.
As I watched the morning, wind blew across the brown. The rain stopped, waiting for afternoon to start again. Robins chattered and crows cawed. But I did not hear the woodcock again. The warm day melted some of the hidden ice. When the sun set, rain again fell from the roof. Dampness seeped under the door. In the morning, perhaps, the woodcock will dance again. I will rise in the dim light, again, to listen.
I needed a new place to go birding, so I looked around and found Cota Field. It is just down the road in Starksboro. I did not know what to expect but hopped in the car and drove down Route 116 and parked next to the pavillion.
The sports fields were frosty. The sun shone. The temperature was in the single digits. I wore my big old down jacket–the Super Poofer as we call it in our house–so I was plenty warm. I found the map tacked to the bulletin board and studied it for a few minutes. Loop trail? Along the brook? Done!
I found some Black Ducks on the water, and some Golden Crowned Kinglets, too. Those are pretty sweet to find–small, secretive, quiet. Getting a good look at those dudes is always a treat. There was not a whole lot of bird activity but enough to keep things interesting. Mostly it was just fun to explore. I want to find several new places to go birding this month. When I started really getting into it a few years ago the exploration piece was one of the best parts about it. Seeing new corners of the place I live connected me more to the place I live.
It was cold but the sun was out. The sun is getting higher as we approach the equinox. So even the cold air feels warmer when the sun shines. I watched the ice melt from the bare branches. Red-Winged Blackbirds started singing–a sure sign of spring on the way. There were no leaves, no flowers, no insects, but the sun glittered in the blue sky and I warmed myself with walking. In several weeks this place will be filled with bird song as that sun rises much earlier. I will be back to explore more then.