Sunday, January 8, 2017

Winding down the Holiday Season #phenology

For those that follow the western calendar, Christmas and the feast of the Epiphany have passed. Christmas trees are being taken down. This year, Sigurd, our new seasonal visitor, will spend the remainder of Winter and all the warmer months, visiting dreamlands and distant shores while the rest of us await the end of our below 0 wind chills and slowly wander toward Spring. Post Christmas / New Years can be a dreary time, but we can often compensate by watching what's happening outside our windows.

tree ornaments waiting to be packed away
tree ornaments waiting to be packed away
Photo by J. Harrington

Sigurd paddling for dreamland
Sigurd paddling for dreamland
Photo by J. Harrington

Early this morning, as I watched sunshine brighten the branches atop our local patch of oak woods, I wondered how long it would be until there was enough warmth in the sun to loosen the bud scales protecting this year's leaves. We'll know as we watch the remaining oak leaves loosen and fall to the ground over the upcoming weeks.

Later in the day, for the first time since we've lived here, I saw, concurrently, two Pileated Woodpeckers. One was at the suet feeder. The other perched in the nearby oak tree. I couldn't tell if they were a male-female pair or just two Pileated Woodpeckers, but now I'll try even harder to watch for the distinguishing characteristics.

Just a little before that, I had to smile as I watched a red squirrel try to chase a gray squirrel about twice its size from under the front feeder. After one and a half circles, the red came to its senses and promptly climbed a nearby cedar tree. The gray returned to feeding on sunflower seed scraps dropped by the chickadees and nuthatches.



Taking Down the Tree





“Give me some light!” cries Hamlet’s
uncle midway through the murder
of Gonzago. “Light! Light!” cry scattering
courtesans. Here, as in Denmark,
it’s dark at four, and even the moon
shines with only half a heart.

The ornaments go down into the box:
the silver spaniel, My Darling
on its collar, from Mother’s childhood
in Illinois; the balsa jumping jack
my brother and I fought over,
pulling limb from limb. Mother
drew it together again with thread
while I watched, feeling depraved
at the age of ten.

With something more than caution
I handle them, and the lights, with their
tin star-shaped reflectors, brought along
from house to house, their pasteboard
toy suitcase increasingly flimsy.
Tick, tick, the desiccated needles drop.

By suppertime all that remains is the scent
of balsam fir. If it’s darkness
we’re having, let it be extravagant.


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