Saturday, November 26, 2005

Cold and Gray

Stars seemingly close enough to touch when we go to bed, are covered with clouds by morning. Just before dawn, sharp barking from the neighbors’ dog draws me to the window. Normally, he rests quietly on the deck; when he barks there are usually visitors in the yard. A burst of high-pitched rapid barking followed his deeper woofs. I didn’t recognize the sound of the new voice but now I was certain --- something is in the yard! At first nothing was visible in the darkness - then I saw some movement near the storage shed. The yard lights came on just in time for me to watch a red fox rapidly cross the clearing and pass quietly over the bank then out of sight as he headed back down to the river. Cold and gray --- the combination slows things down in the woods. Cold temperatures held the light covering of snow through the day—Only the slightest sprinkling of snowflakes whirled around the rooftop this morning. The somber gray skies continued until darkness fell. Through the stillness the sound of water splashing against stones in the river travels up to the house. The action today was from the birds coming to the feeders. There are fewer cardinals and woodpeckers than in the past couple of years. Usually the cold brings them to the feeders. Two brilliant male cardinals could be seen in the thickets behind the house and a single downy woodpecker came to the suet feeder today. Even the bravest of the chipmunks did not come out to face the chill nip of the wind .

When Winter fringes every bough
With his fantastic wreath,
And puts the seal of silence now
Upon the leaves beneath;

When every stream in its penthouse
Goes gurgling on its way,
And in his gallery the mouse
Nibbleth the meadow hay;

Methinks the summer still is nigh,
And lurketh underneath,
At that same meadow mouse doth lie
Snug in that last year's heath.

And if perchance the chickadee
Lisp a faint note anon,
The snow is summer's canopy,
Which she herself put on.

Fair blossoms deck the cheerful trees,
And dazzling fruits depend;
The north wind sighs a summer breeze,
The nipping frosts to fend,

Bringing glad tidings unto me,
The while I stand all ear,
Of a serene eternity,
Which need not winter fear.

Out on the silent pond straightway
The restless ice doth crack,
And pond sprites merry gambols play
Amid the deafening rack.

Eager I hasten to the vale,
As if I heard brave news,
How nature held high festival,
Which it were hard to lose.

I gambol with my neighbor ice,
And sympathizing quake,
As each new crack darts in a trice
Across the gladsome lake.

One with the cricket in the ground,
And fagot on the hearth,
Resounds the rare domestic sound
Along the forest path.
--- Henry David Thoreau


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