6:47 a.m. 25 degrees, wind WSW 1 mph. Sky: clear and cold, pink rinse
across the south, fingers of sunlight running down Robinson Hill. Permanent
streams: iceless. Me, enthralled by pulsating light and the melody of flow.
Wetlands: heavier glaze than yesterday, a whiter shade of tan. From
somewhere in the pines, beyond the marsh, the *kip*, *kip*, *kip* of red
crossbills. Pond: a tighter, thicker seal (not that I'm about to walk
across), a mosaic of ice, adorned with milkweed seeds, eye-catching white
plumes, tassels in the breeze.
Across the marsh, in a wall of evergreens, a barred owl, bright as a patch
of snow, mid-way up shoreline hemlock. Globe-headed bird, motionless, as
silent as smoke, staring into the reeds, telescope eyes fixed and on fire,
ears awry . . . unspooling sound. Reads a world, hears a world I cannot
possibly comprehend. Then, decamps. A launch. Two or three flaps, long
wings deeply curved and hushed. Into a cleft in the evergreens. Absorbed by
Once, when *I wore a younger man's clothes* (to borrow a line from Billy
Joel), I stood on a boardwalk in an old-growth swamp on the Everglades'
northwest fringe. Looking up, a large barred owl, ten-feet overhead. A
smaller owl, a pig frog dangling from his bill, landed on the cypress limb
next to the larger owl. Small owl gave large owl the frog. Then, betrothed,
he mounted her, tails askew . . . connubial bliss lasting seconds. Done.
They flew off deep into the generosity of the swamp. One laughing like a
maniac. The other dining alfresco on frog thighs.
I love the mystery of owls. Birds of darkness. Voices like disembodied
spirits. I've raised them. I've peeled them off roads; their bleached
skulls like totems sit on my mantle. Chickadees brighten my outlook: owls,
a manifesto, affirming the unknown.
A swirl of chickadees and red-breasted nuthatches. A debonair titmouse and
six raucous jays. Newly minted sunlight seeps down Robinson Hill.