Cold and very still. The sun climbs through the ridgetop trees as slowly and bristly as a porcupine of light.
A scurf of fresh snow on the porch. A few flakes linger in the air, darting back and forth as if on reconnaissance missions.
A love triangle of squirrels clambering through the lilac, shaking puffs of fresh snow from the limbs. The chattering call of a small hawk.
The cold has returned, but not soon enough to save the snow cover. The chipmunk darts across the road, cheeks puffed out with weed seeds.
After rain in the night, a clearing wind at sunrise. The woods is now more brown than white. A chipmunk zips across a patch of snow.
Traffic sounds have returned to the valley: tires whistle, trucks groan. Off in the woods, some large animal crunches through the ice.
In the holiday silence, a pileated woodpecker hammering a high-pitched snag is the loudest thing. The stream gurgles. Distant church bells.
Drizzle on snow—a phrase that, moved to the kitchen, sounds almost enticing. Christmas has come early for a crow excited about the compost.
Bleary, I squint at a smudge of sun, watch squirrels running for hundreds of yards through the woods, feet almost noiseless on the soft ice.
Under a bright blue sky, the snowpack gleams like metal. The raspy cries of a jay. Trees rock in a sudden gust of wind, branches clattering.
As the clouds thin, the flat-white ground acquires a gloss. Trees grow tenuous shadows, improbably long and skinny on this shortest of days.
Thick hoarfrost gives the sun rising through the trees a soft, glittery nimbus, and the aging snowpack has regained the sparkle of youth.
January has come early: the icy snowpack hard as a brick, a squirrel already in heat. A pursuing male pauses to groom his face and genitals.
Steady rain; the frost in the windows has turned to fog. Juncos move through the weeds like a human crowd, a mix of the bold and the timid.