Titmice and chickadees inspect the lilac, which lost half its leaves overnight. Déjà vu: they were in my dreams, these birds. These spirits.

Dripdripdrip — rain on the roof. Off in the darkness, the explosive snorting of a deer: coyote? Bear? Human? Something with the wrong odor.

Under a low cloud cover, the mountain still white with snow, dawn grows from the ground up. My growling stomach is the loudest thing.

Puffs of white smoke where squirrels forage in snow-covered birches. One squirrel falls twenty feet to the ground and lands with a soft FLUMP.

An hour before dawn, I sit motionless, watching Venus climb slowly through the leaves of an oak, dazzling first my right eye, then my left.