6:41 a.m. 30 degrees, wind E 2 mph. Sky: half-moon overhead, alone in an
unsullied sky. Permanent streams: creeping around its stone foundation,
trickling through a maze of leaves; every so often, one leaf escapes the
mat and goes for a ride, a tiny lifeboat—maple or birch or basswood—with a
leaf-stem rudder; on a journey to compost. Wetlands: marsh and alders
frost-glazed and hushed, except for the scream of the red-shouldered hawk,
hurled down the valley like a javelin, undermining the far-off church
bells. Pond: rolling mist above a settlement of leaves, a pond carpet, a
turtle blanket. Unmoored islands of pine needles adrift in a miniature
ocean, a transitory echo of plate tectonics, splitting and uniting, the
accelerated illusion of geology.
Red-breasted nuthatches, some off-key, jabbering in the hemlocks.
Hyperactive golden-crowned kinglets hover at the end of white spruce twigs.
Mellow chickadees inspect ash branches or hang upside-down, probing webworm
tents, soiled and ragged. Crows and blue jays proceeded by their voices. I
hear yellow-rumped warblers in the woods, the lucid, inescapable rhythm of
my boyhood in the dunes, a run of sharp, unmusical *chek*, *chek*, *chek*s*
. . . *but I can't find them*. *My dogs, a motley duo of discontent, ignore
the warblers for the red squirrel that comes down the maple, scales the
stonewall, and broadcasts a stream of invective—interest peaks.
Leashes tighten. Finding little, active birds becomes even
more challenging. What is now, not coincidently, a test of wills, me with
my binoculars, the dogs with their taught leashes, both enmeshed in
unsustainable self-interest, we lose track of squirrel and the warblers .
. . as the first rays of sun gild the shoulders of Robinson Hill.