6:39 a.m. 39 degrees, wind NNW 0 mph. Sky: clouds, an ephemeral but
evolving kaleidoscope of color and shape. Pink, rose, mauve, and a lavender
rinse above the marsh; cotton balls, cotton cylinders, cotton mounds, and a
nautilus-shaped cloud that curls and fractures into a pinwheel of soft
colors . . . an October morning meant for a landscape painter. As the sun
rises, aggressive light turns pastel clouds bright silver, almost
white-hot. Permanent and intermittent streams: on the move, the gift of a
far-off hurricane, gravity, and saturated ground; flow supervised by the
ledge. Wetlands: the reason I walk early; a line of malnourished mist above
browns and tans, a thread of green; below the last patches of copper and
rust-colored leaves; a landscape anchored by an enchanting sky, a palette
of color. Two geese circle the marsh, raining honks; three crows, pass in
silence . . . let sky speak for them. Pond: the faint rise of moisture,
more haze than mist.
Eight crows fly north, followed by the ninth, a laggard, pitch-black
beneath pale tangerine.
I love chickadees. Is there a more companionable bird? Unburdened by
weather and everywhere active, the crowns of maples, where the last orange
leaf overcooks brown; the alders and hazelnuts, the goldenrods, which bend
under the weight of a small bird. Chickadees deliver the news in language
easy to understand; the number of *dees* reflects levels of excitement. An
owl or a hawk, alone on a limb, gets a barrage, a call to arms. In the
front yard, I get two or three widely spaced, an acknowledgment.
An integration pioneer; chickadees attract titmice, nuthatches, kinglets,
sometimes a yellow-rumped warbler or a Carolina wren; they are the glue
that binds the flock; their voice the voice of inclusion. Patient.
Tolerant. Accessible. Convivial.
And, when *Color* fades, and the lights go out, chickadees linger,
uncompromisingly cheerful, little voices easing into frigid air—plumes of
breath, micro-mist on a cold morning. This winter, far more than most . .
. I need chickadees.