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.
Cold and still under a flat white sky. Then calls of chickadees, excited about the least thing. A Carolina wren pops up to scold the dog.
Distant church bells ringing the 8:00 o’clock hour—the Christian call to work. The dog stands up to have another sniff at the porch floor.
Cold and quiet. An argument between nuthatches is picked up and amplified by a pileated woodpecker. The old dog farts in a patch of sun.
Foggy and still, save for the occasional crash-down of a black walnut. The dog I’m sitting noses through the long grass, inhaling deeply.