Two degrees below freezing and crystal clear. I worry for the tender young leaves of the peonies, paused mid-unfurl—translucent pink commas.

A chipmunk scurries through the garden with a wad of dried leaves between her teeth and disappears beneath a flowerless clump of peonies.

The hammer-blows of a pileated woodpecker opening up an oak. Peonies are sprouting in the garden, an infant’s pink, half-open fists.

The first peony, which opened yesterday, is too small to topple from the weight of rain. It merely tilts its flushed face toward the woods.

Cold, gray and windy. The peony sprouts, up early this year, are still at the point of just untwisting their skinny red fists.

Peonies have broken ground: skinny red claws reaching for the light. The whining clucks of a hen turkey separated from the flock.