Friday, January 13, 2017

A Cardinal rule #phenology

Yesterday at dusk, against a flat white background of crusted snow, he arrived. The scattered sunflower seeds, dropped from the feeder onto the snow crust by black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches and a red squirrel or two, enticed him. Several days full of landings and takeoffs, comings and goings and occasional squabbles had probably alerted him to the feeder's location. His arrival made the entire month of January for me, bringing a flame of life to brighten the landscape for my Winter-weary eyes. If I were as open to omens as I probably should be, I'd call his arrival a precursor to next week's forecast thaw. A male Cardinal in a Winter woods helps move Winter from bearable to enjoyable. I'm grateful he accepted the invitation we extended.

male Cardinal with sunflower seeds on snow
male Cardinal with sunflower seeds on snow
Photo by J. Harrington

Mary Oliver has an entire book of 61 poems named Red Bird. Here's the eponymous poem.

Red Bird

Red bird came all winter
Firing up the landscape
As nothing else could.
Of course I love the sparrows,
Those dun-colored darlings,
So hungry and so many.
I am a God-fearing feeder of birds,
I know he has many children,
Not all of them bold in spirit.
Still, for whatever reason-
Perhaps because the winter is so long
And the sky so black-blue,
Or perhaps because the heart narrows
As often as it opens-
I am grateful
That red bird comes all winter
Firing up the landscape
As nothing else can do.

Mary Oliver


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