Bird Report

As the dog bounds through the back yard, a junco skitters up from the evergreen bush into a nearby pine. With rare morning light behind the tree, the bird's landing releases the finest glittering of tiny sparkles to fall in and out of perception – a slow motion dusting of prismatic wonderment. If winter was like this more often maybe it wouldn't seem so unrelenting in its ability to unleash misery and despair, especially for those who feed on light. A woodpecker's drumming breaks this dream with staccato bursts of longing. Judging by the volume and clarity, he is next door on neighbor's tree. Given the onset of late winter, perhaps this red-headed king is searching for a mate. All I know is how sharply he can be heard against the frozen silence of this subzero morning.

Yesterday a male cardinal appeared in place I hadn't seen him before. He tried to feed in the small feeder attached to the dining room window but was unable to fit. With multiple attempts, he'd fly in after pausing on the adjacent pine. Tilting and turning his head left and right, his sharp red feathers glared against the green of the needles. Eventually he was forced to pick through the black and golden scraps of seed beneath the window. It's the only feeder the squirrels cannot drain, although they do try. Muddy prints dot the window where the squirrels have managed to jump from the house siding onto the window, only to slide down past the feeder and fall to the ground.

When L. calls from college and asks what I'm up to, I tell her these little vignettes with the full realization that I am now more like my mother than I am not. L. will tell me a million details about her classes and her saxophone studio and her friendships. I love to listen to her chirp and chatter, her voice rising and falling like music itself. She leaves nothing out, or so it seems. Sometimes I curl up in her empty bed and stare out of her bedroom window. I imagine her life now as she grows away from home.

Coming in from school, B. pauses at the window. He'll notice the feeder getting low or the mess the squirrels have made or all the dog prints around the tree where Kora tried in vain to nab the squirrely invaders. I'll ask him how his day was and he say that it was just okay. It is always just okay. His hugs tell me that he is glad to be home. We sit quietly on the couch after school. He'll pet the dog and ask her how her day of squirrel patrol was. He tells her in a cooing voice how badly her breath smells, as if he was giving her the most endearing compliment in the world. We share a smile over that. He scrolls through his phone and asks me if I saw this headline or that headline. Between long silences, he shows me memes and puns and jokes. We can hear K.’s voice through the floor register. Sometimes it's just his side of the conversation but more often it's a conference call with many voices making many decisions for many hours of the day.

Today the house is still sleeping. I want them all to sleep a little longer so that this silence can be stretched a little further. Here is where the bird report begins. In the bird report, the writing begins. And with a little sunlight, something breaks wide open.

Ah, now he stirs. The toilet flushes and I know my morning prayers are finished. Though winter has taken too much, February begins to give. Here and there, feathery amens start to rise. A chickadee leads the way.