Sunny and cold. The snow lingers like a guilty conscience. A squirrel climbs the dead elm, enters the old nest hole and sits peering out.
A cloudless sky. Chipmunks and squirrels run back and forth across the melting snow. A gurgling chorus from all the springs and ditches.
Yesterday’s melting has turned old footprints from pits into little hills. New tracks are muddy brown, fading out by the middle of the yard.
The snowstorm slows down just after daybreak, as if drawing its breath. I hear my mother on her back porch yelling at the squirrels.
Two amorous squirrels chase each other in odd fits and starts, bounding over the snow now pitted and softened by a night of rain.
The thermometer hovers just above zero F. Drifted snow covers the porch. A lone squirrel leaps through the shadows of the trees.
The rasping cries of male squirrels trailing a female in estrus through the treetops. I can feel my breath freezing to my beard.
In the weak sun, a violent sneeze possesses me. It echoes off the hillside, sets a squirrel to scolding. A pileated woodpecker drums.
Frost on the grass like mildew. An echoey rasping sound that can only be a squirrel chiseling at a black walnut shell inside a hollow tree.
A bedraggled squirrel climbs the rain-slick elm snag and takes shelter in the old flicker hole, turning to peer out at the downpour.
Siskins like moveable leaves in a bare birch. A squirrel chiseling a skull-hard walnut falls silent when it reaches the soft cerebrum.
Now that the walnuts have all fallen, a squirrel deigns to pick one off the ground. The dogwood beside the stream pullulates with sparrows.
When a squirrel sounds the hawk alarm, a sparrow on a branch freezes so well that soon even I am convinced it’s part of the tree.
A bold squirrel crosses the porch, going right under my chair. Below the top railing, an upside-down fly spins madly in a net of silk.
Fog. The splat of a walnut on the driveway, knocked loose by a foraging squirrel. A rabbit grazing the sodden grass freezes.
On and on, a squirrel scolds some unseen predator. I scan the slope for fox, mink, feral cat—anything to break the monotony of pale brown.