Saturday, February 8, 2014

Winter worn

When I was a child, at least a century past, I learned a verse that went something like this:
Last night I saw upon the stair
A little man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
Gee, I wish he’d go away
I don't recall learning the rest of the poem (Antigonish by William Hughes Mearns, and, apparently, I learned the first stanza incorrectly, although I've found several variations online). The condition of the little man upon the stairs is similar to the current status of Winter's normal lacing of deer tracks in the back yard. Although I have no wish that they'd go away, they have, at least from their regular haunts.

snow-covered hill without deer tracks
track-free hillside         © harrington

Perhaps even more surprising, there are no tracks along the side of the back yard, where it meets the woods.

woods' edge without deer tracks
track-free side yard        © harrington

We know the deer are regularly visiting the compost heap. Occasional tracks also are visible along the roadside and yesterday's posting has pictures of trails  across the road headed for a nearby swamp. There's also infrequent tracks close to the house from one or more does that I think is, just like the cardinals, feeding on spilled sunflower seeds on top of the snow below the feeder on the deck. So far this Winter, I've seen squirrels, one rabbit, cardinals and purple finches under the front feeder. In back it's been just the cardinals, occasional goldfinches and the deer tracks. Of course, there's always lots of these folks (picture below) at any of our feeders. For any of you who, as I am, hanging on by our frozen fingernails, there's the prospect of two consecutive days above freezing midweek next week. Yay! I'm hoping they could lead to another sign of Spring, when the frost melts from the storm windows for the season. Joy Harjo writes about what a Winter like this can do to people, whether we're careful or not.

chickadee awaiting turn at feeder
chickadee awaiting his/her turn at feeder   © harrington

Grace

By Joy Harjo
for Darlene Wind and James Welch

I think of Wind and her wild ways the year we had nothing to lose and lost it anyway in the cursed country of the fox. We still talk about that winter, how the cold froze imaginary buffalo on the stuffed horizon of snowbanks. The haunting voices of the starved and mutilated broke fences, crashed our thermostat dreams, and we couldn’t stand it one more time. So once again we lost a winter in stubborn memory, walked through cheap apartment walls, skated through fields of ghosts into a town that never wanted us, in the epic search for grace.

Like Coyote, like Rabbit, we could not contain our terror and clowned our way through a season of false midnights. We had to swallow that town with laughter, so it would go down easy as honey. And one morning as the sun struggled to break ice, and our dreams had found us with coffee and pancakes in a truck stop along Highway 80, we found grace.
 
I could say grace was a woman with time on her hands, or a white buffalo escaped from memory. But in that dingy light it was a promise of balance. We once again understood the talk of animals, and spring was lean and hungry with the hope of children and corn.
 
I would like to say, with grace, we picked ourselves up and walked into the spring thaw. We didn’t; the next season was worse. You went home to Leech Lake to work with the tribe and I went south. And, Wind, I am still crazy. I know there is something larger than the memory of a dispossessed people. We have seen it.

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