7:04 a.m. 39 degrees, wind E 0 mph. Sky: an embodiment of blue-gray,
grayish-pink highlights in the east. Bands of ground fog, mobility of mist
convert hills to islands. Permanent streams: fuller and louder in the
narrows, then, en route to the marsh, spreading into shallow, spongy
floodplains, an unfrozen saturation. Wetlands: textures softened by mist,
color darkened by cloud cover, one F-stop underexposed. The ringing tumult
of jays, high overhead and in the pines. I saw an owl last week, across the
marsh, mid-way up shoreline hemlock. After nearly two hundred days of
looking, one owl. Once. I still look, still hope to see the big bird
perched in the raw, stoic as a monk: snow biting and swirling. Nada. But I
look in earnest, anyway. Wishful, a boy at a ballpark . . . begging for a
homerun whenever Mickey Mantle stepped to the plate. Pond: rain puddles
wait to consolidate. Jigsaw pieces of smooth ice. Granular ice off the
shoreline, slight relief like a miniature topo map. A globe of open water
where the hillside drains into the pond.
Chatty red squirrel ignores the dogs and me. Carries on. Racing up and down
a leaning pine, tail like a parasol, folded back over its body. Dogs,
helplessly attentive, sit, fixed on the squirrel—leashes strain.
Two ravens flying together, separate. One heads northwest over the marsh,
the other, like a compass needle, due north. They have little to say . . .
but wings speak, like a newspaper stoking the air. Mixed flock of
chickadees and red-breasted nuthatches. Chickadees, high in the crown,
consider the end of ash twigs. Gravity-defying, nuthatches scrutinize the
secrets of confetti lichen, prospecting for life in the pale green tufts.
The first sunrise after Thanksgiving, and I am still grateful. Although
sequestered by a pandemic, hostage to political backwash and the nonsense
of polls, the injustice of racism, a troubled climate, the sadness of
environmental tragedy, the black hole of extinction . . . I still have
family and friends. And everpresent chickadees, the joy-spreading burst of
feathers, gray as the morning, frolicking at sunrise.