6:38 a.m. 37 degrees, wind SSW 5 mph. Sky: after a night of heavy rain,
bright and open in the southwest, a rose-tinted flotilla pushes east.
Brooding and spritzing elsewhere. Permanent streams: a Pavarotti flow,
audible at a considerable distance, the infusion compliments of moisture
from Lake Ontario. Wetlands: reeds of many shades, yellow-tan to mud-brown.
Evergreens on the far shoreline set off by bright clouds: pagoda-shaped
pines, tall, laden with cones, which hang like ornaments from the upper,
outer limbs; spruce, shorter, brighter green, tapered, cones too small to
see. Pond: water pours out of the overflow culvert, under the road, and
into the marsh. The intermittent stream that winds down the valley's
eastern rim and feeds the pond, singing loudly.
Roving red crossbills, in and out of pines, chatting in flight, eight
mobile dots, a tight grouping, silhouettes against the pink, from one tree
to the next, from one valley to another, nomadic diners that occasionally
stay to breed. For crossbills, no sense of *philopatry*. Lives in devotion
to the geography of cone crops. For a crossbill, *philopatry* is an
evergreen bond, not a precise location, a relationship with the continent's
great, green sweep of pines, fir, spruce, hemlock, larch—from the subarctic
south around the Great Lakes and down every mountain range, North Carolina
to Belize, Oregon to Baja. Enjoy them while you can; they may not return
for years—the nature of crossbills: the story sporadic food abundance, a
The *toot* and *yank* of nuthatches, both species. Two crows, hushed,
beneath the unfolding sky, usher up the sun, black birds above the marsh.
Headed north, escorted by the breeze. Below crows, chickadees, at peace in
humanity's chaos, patrol micro-habitats on limbs. Feeding. Calling.
Pausing, now and again, to fluff out like animated stuffies, indefatigable
defenders of the joy of life. I'd like to write with the sparkle of a
chickadee. Is there anything they don't like? Well, maybe a sharp-shinned
hawk or a northern shrike. Not much more. I lean on chickadees, often . . .
and will again as the coronavirus torches my Thanksgiving plans.