On a bright morning, I can almost forget how many of the laurel bushes shining in the sun are sick and dying. A titmouse’s monotonous call.
A dry ticking of junco alarm calls from all directions. A small hawk—Cooper’s or sharp-shinned—hurtles between the snow-plastered trees.
A rodent face appears in the mouth of the old flicker hole in the elm snag. It watches me for a while before fading back into the darkness.
The grass darkened by rain in the wee hours. Two crows gad about like a human couple united by their harsh disapproval of the same things.
A second male phoebe has returned. Their warring warbles echo off the hillside at sunrise, interspersed with a cowbird’s liquid notes.
A bitter wind scours the hillside, stirring the quarter-inch of new snow into fast-moving phantoms, back-lit by the sun.
A solid gray sky marred only by the sun’s blurred searchlight. It’s cold. From all directions, the anxious-sounding calls of woodpeckers.
Off through the woods, the sun illuminates a stripe of white where snow still lies under the blueberry bushes on the powerline right-of-way.
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.
Thinking the phoebes should be back, I cup hands to ears: nothing. 20 minutes later, one rounds the house and flutters in front of my face.