Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve Minnesota, weather for the birds

It's Christmas Eve. The gray sky looks more like late October or early November. The temperature is in the mid-30s. Yesterday SiSi and I went for a walk out back and came back soaking wet more than cold. Outside, it doesn't look or feel like a typical Minnesota Christmas. If this is an indication of what global warming can do to our fourth season, we might as well move to San Diego and await "the big one."

unseasonably green and bare fields
unseasonably green and bare fields
Photo by J. Harrington

I'm uncertain whether it's been the unseasonably warm weather or something else, but so far we haven't seen purple finches or cardinals at the feeder. Woodpeckers have been feasting on the suet, and chickadees on the sunflower seeds. Maybe it's been all the commotion raised by the construction crews that's kept away the more timid avifauna. They're certainly not perched in a Christmas tree, as was Billy Collins'--

Christmas Sparrow


The first thing I heard this morning
was a rapid flapping sound, soft, insistent—

wings against glass as it turned out
downstairs when I saw the small bird
rioting in the frame of a high window,
trying to hurl itself through
the enigma of glass into the spacious light.

Then a noise in the throat of the cat
who was hunkered on the rug
told me how the bird had gotten inside,
carried in the cold night
through the flap of a basement door,
and later released from the soft grip of teeth.

On a chair, I trapped its pulsations
in a shirt and got it to the door,
so weightless it seemed
to have vanished into the nest of cloth.

But outside, when I uncupped my hands,
it burst into its element,
dipping over the dormant garden
in a spasm of wingbeats
then disappeared over a row of tall hemlocks.

For the rest of the day,
I could feel its wild thrumming
against my palms as I wondered about
the hours it must have spent
pent in the shadows of that room,
hidden in the spiky branches
of our decorated tree, breathing there
among the metallic angels, ceramic apples, stars of yarn,
its eyes open, like mine as I lie in bed tonight
picturing this rare, lucky sparrow
tucked into a holly bush now,
a light snow tumbling through the windless dark.  


Wishing you and yours a warm and peaceful Christmas and holiday season full of wonder and love.

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