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.