6:37 a.m. 27 degrees, wind NWN 0 mph, feels like mid-November in Vermont.
Sky: hung the birdfeeders before five, Venus rising in the east, Orion
sinking in the west, in between the great smudgy sweep of our galaxy. By
sunrise, clouds organizing themselves in the powder blue, mare's tails and
cotton swaps, rose-tinted and luminous, a school of long, thin, fish-shaped
clouds headed east, bright like spawning herring. Permanent streams: cold
music, rocks damp and iceless. Wetlands: frost glazed, a deepening pool of
cold air, feed by half-a-dozen spigots that channel Sibirea down every
crease in the hillsides, a bitter watershed made less bearable by this past
week's glory . . . six days in the sixties and seventies. Across the reeds,
astronomical bushels of pine cones, dangling. Check for crossbills the way
I used to check the mid-marsh snag for hawks, now long gone. Nothing.
Absence of crossbills: like a whale watch without whales, a hawk watch
without hawks . . . then, it's all about your narration, tales of the land
and sea. I begin a crossbill dialogue with myself: eleven races of red
crossbills in North America, possibly eleven different species, each with a
different bill-size and body-size, each with different evergreen
preferences and geographic range. Each with a different call. Type 1,
southern Appalachians, a vagabond, wanders widely in the East. Northeast,
Types 1, 2, and 10, some years Type 3. Type 8, Newfoundland, a homebody.
The rest out West (Type 6, Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico, wanders north
into the Southwest; Type 11, southern Mexico and Nicaragua). Eastern Type
10 might *actually* be Type 7. Who knows? Not me. Quizzically and
patiently, dogs look off into space. Pond: still, mist drifts a southeast .
. . unlike crossbills, which drift across the Northeast, cashing in on
Red squirrel, sitting beside pine, eats a cone how we might eat a
three-foot corn-on-the-cob, held in the palms of both hands. Happy squirrel
spins cone. White-eyerings set off eyes as black as coal. A facial
lamplight. Squirrel ignores me. Dogs, more interested in squirrel than
Jay, the town crier, announces a new day. Nuthatches, both species, quiet
as church mice. One downy woodpecker calls. Chickadees are conspicuous by
silence. Or absence?
Sunlight spills down Robinson Hill, cold and bright.