6:39 a.m. 21 degrees, wind NW 0 mph. Sky: three bars of transitory color,
bright as a baby's smile, dense tangerine in the east fading to pastel
mauve in the west, in between soft, airy blue. A celestial caress, blissful
and lavish enough to make me forget that the earth hastens to iron. The
dogs and I have heaven to ourselves. Permanent streams: even the rocks look
cold, but the water still lullabies and soothes on a crisp morning.
Wetlands: a heavy glaze, white and silent, weighted down by the cold air.
Pond: feathery shards of ice coalesce in the shallow southern cove, then
extend north, narrowly, along both shoreline, a frozen mask too thin to
hold a virus.
Industrious red squirrels raid each others' midden—a morning of stealing,
eating, chasing, and a lot of chattering, chipping, scolding—the winter
dialogue of squirrels, a forgotten language.
I caught a mouse last night. Under the kitchen sink, in a trap baited with
peanut butter. I put the stiff mouse on the stone wall by the garage, as I
always do. By the time I returned to the kitchen, the mouse had
vanished, stolen by a blue jay . . . maybe. Or a chipmunk, though they
usually sleep in on cold mornings. Blue jays, their attention wavering
between seeds and suet, own the front yard. Fly in from all directions,
screaming like banshees, their voices bouncing off the halls of their
throats. With a thirst for mischief, jays scatter doves and juncos on the
ground and chickadees in the cherry. They stay all day, a bold, hungry
brigade. When the curtain begins to close, now around four-thirty, jays
repair to the pines, flush to the trunk, and screened by needles. Hidden
from the wind and the eyes of owls.
I'm drawn to blue jays the way I'm drawn chickadees. They're full of
themselves, noisy and over-active . . . and abundant. Social to the
extreme. I expect, while stuck at home indefinitely, I shall become well
acquainted with blue jays. And when I grow tired of watching them, I'll
vacation in my living room or go out to dinner in my kitchen, or exile
myself upstairs and dream Costa Rica, a homeboy's version of a staycation.