Thursday, November 17, 2005

For the Birds

Frost patterns on the windows, frozen bird baths and ice crystals covering the grasses tempt me to slide deep under the down quilt and wait for a warmer day. Finally beguiled by shimmer of early light on the trees my feet took me to check the thermometer --- 32°…

“…Frost this morning; all the meadow grass and some of the pine needles sparkling with irised crystals. --- flowers of light . . .” John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra.

Birdfeeders have to be set back out. Until it stays really cold they have to come in each night or the bears will destroy them. I don’t mind sharing with the bear but I don’t like what he does to my feeders.

I grab my camera as I head out with the feeders. A bit of bright gold and orange at the corner of the deck brings my camera to focus on the last of the summer flowers. Although I cover the tender plants each night, the heavy frost will take its toll. The tansy will simply turn brown but the Nasturtiums and the beauty they have brought all summer long will likely be gone by tomorrow.

The clearing is filled with bird songs. I spread a few sunflower seeds on the deck railing. Chickadees, goldfinches and nuthatches begin snatching seeds almost before I can get the feeders hung.

“… And how soft and lovely the light streaming through this living ceiling, revealing the arching branching ribs and veins of the fronds as the framework of countless panes of pale green and yellow plant-glass nicely fitted together --- a fairyland created out of the commonest fernstuff.” John Muir “My First Summer in the Sierra

Luminous light penetrates the fall leaves … Oh, where are the paints and the words to describe them.

The abrupt cessation of bird songs grabs my attention. Diving silently past me a Sharp-shinned hawk homes in on birds cowering behind a feeder. With a sudden cacophony of sound and a flurry of feathers, goldfinches, titmice and passing crows turn on the slender hawk. The aerobatic show is on: Up and down through the clearing, swooping and turning the hawk attempts to avoid the irate darting defenders. This time the predator looses… Taking refuge in a tall white pine, he pauses for a moment before his swift wings take him far down the river and out of sight.

Following the light as it plays through the clearing, I come upon new treasures to add to my collection of memories for this day. I store away the colors that I have no words to describe of persimmon leaves and a Blue Jay feather.

Mid-afternoon I was back outside chasing light patterns through the woods and around the edges of the clearing.

Gliding low above the trees a mature Bald Eagle traversed the clearing. Although I pointed the camera his direction,--- How could I miss? The closest I have been to an eagle in the air and --- I missed. My reward was watching him climb toward the clouds, circling and soaring overhead for nearly five minutes. Surprisingly, the small birds ignored his presence and continued snatching tidbits from the feeders.

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” John Muir - The Yosemite (1912), page 256.

Reading today: --- You guessed it “The Mountains of California” by John Muir


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