Ten minutes before first light, the first distant, barking dog. Ten minutes before that, a barred owl’s cackle.
Overcast and still. A field sparrow’s accelerating note. A turkey hunter and his wife, led by their dog, carry a tree stand into the woods.
Fine snow is falling, an hour before sunrise. Dogs start barking in the distance, and after a while a coyote answers—one long, wavering cry.
My wife observes that it’s a morning for wrens and not for sparrows. A new pile of dogshit has acquired an entourage of green bottle flies.
From a garden across the way, the desolate barks of a dog locked outside. A breeze showers the table with firethorn blossoms.
Cold wind. A white-throated sparrow sings its plaintive, quavering song and falls silent. I sit in the reek of dogshit from my boot.
The last patch of snow lies like a crumpled piece of litter at the woods’ edge. The dog licks up the weeks-old remains of her own bile.
A squirrel leaps out of a tree, falls 20 feet to the ground and runs off. The dog stares mournfully at a pool of bile she’s just thrown up.
Saturday sounds from down-ridge: crows, a chainsaw snarling and muttering, a pack of dogs—or is it wild geese, somewhere above the clouds?
Snowflakes land on the dog’s thick brown fur and take a long time to melt. I begin to look differently at the brown, snow-dusted hillside.