The advanced scouts for a promised snowstorm. A squirrel gallops across the porch roof and back, sounding like a very small, unshod horse.
Amorous squeaks of squirrels. A small fissure in the clouds approaches the sun and the frozen landscape brightens for half a minute.
Another bitter cold morning. A few snowflakes wander back and forth as if lost. The resident naturalist picks her way down the icy trail.
Bitter cold. Clouds hide the sunrise, but the crows still herald it. The squirrels appear to be staying in their nests.
Is it night or day? The 7 o’clock factory whistle has the answer. Two minutes later, the mockingbird begins to chirp—that take-charge tone.
Dawn. In the dim light, a pitter-patter of freezing rain slowly turns into the dry whisper of sleet, then the hush of snow — and back again.
Leaden sky. The hollow echoes with the drumming of pileated woodpeckers. Two soon stop, but the one with the most resonant tree bangs on.
Cold (-10°C) and quiet, save for my mother’s periodic hollering at the squirrels on their back porch. My clouds of breath rise straight up.
The one-time slush pile in the yard looks hard as a wind-dried bone. The tall pines sigh in their sleep. I begin to lose feeling in my toes.
Half an hour before sunrise, the first inquisitive chirps: mockingbird. A snow-free caesura in the road where the spring flows under it.
The first stripe of sunlight to make it through the woods follows the 200-year-old colliers’ trail. In thin snow, the cuneiform of sparrows.
Just after sunrise, the side of the ridge where fresh snow is sheltered from the wind turns pink, until the clouds close in with their flaming bellies.
A few minutes till sunrise; the wren sounds impatient. But the clouds are heavy—overflowing, in fact. It’s light enough now to see the flakes.
Seven cardinals—three pairs and a lone male—take turns drinking from the stream, then perch in the lilac’s bare branches, four feet apart.