Friday, November 20, 2015

Seasonal adjustments

Winter has fired a shot across our bow. Snow, 10" or so in some areas, is falling across southern and western Minnesota. Locally, skim ice has coated all the shallow, small ponds. Geese are rafting on ever larger lakes. Thanksgiving is less than a week away.

a bird's nest from the season past
a bird's nest from the season past
Photo by J. Harrington

Do you remember the line from "A Visit from St. Nicholas" about not even a mouse? I felt bad earlier this week when I cleaned out the bluebird houses and stirred some neighborhood mice. They had already settled down for a long Winter's nap. Then I removed the old bird nests they were nestled in and uncovered the poor creatures, one in the front house, two out back, causing them to stir frantically.

a mouse in the (bird) house
a mouse in the (bird) house
Photo by J. Harrington

I sincerely hope they got themselves settled in someplace almost as good as the birdless bluebird houses, as long as it's not our house. On a good day I'll relocated a spider or a bug, but I draw a line at rodents that are only too ready to return to the food and warmth of our hearth. Wendell Berry has a warm and wonderful story about a whitefooted mouse and her own disrupted hearth. My inadvertent disturbance of the inhabitants in the bird houses, many of this week's news stories and Berry's story of Whitefoot remind me to be grateful that so far I've been successful at staying alive so I can enjoy the seasonal change, Thanksgiving's shared joys, and the company I share with family, friends, and nonhuman people. As often happens with poets, Robert Frost brings a different perspective on this time of year. If you'll excuse me for now, I'm going to work on a letter to Santa while you read Frost's poem. Think about whether you'd cast me as a letter writer or one of Santa's helpers working on an answer?



My November Guest




My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
     Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
     She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
     She talks and I am fain to list:
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
She’s glad her simple worsted gray
     Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
     The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
     And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
     The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
     And they are better for her praise.


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