The birds seem strangely cheerful on this dull, overcast day. A nuthatch even goes up a tree trunk rather than the usual head-first descent.

The freezing rain stops by mid-morning, but the low cloud cover persists. From the valley to the east, the sound of semi-automatic gunfire.

High winds. The chairs huddle together at the end of the porch. Oak trees rattle; the pines roar. A sparrow flies into the wind, chittering.

A whitelash of snow against my cheek. I peer at the asterisks melting into my coat, continuing below my chair as a thin footnote.

The loud rasp of squirrel teeth trying to gain entry to the chambers of a black walnut. Gibbous moon like an eggshell discarded in the sky.