Monday, January 28, 2013

The longest month

This is how the world outside my window looked this morning. 




I finally got geared-up for a run yesterday about ten minutes after the freezing rain started. Already the sidewalks were coated with a pebbled, opaque ice, treacherous for running. The middle of the street was mostly clear, due to the chemicals and wheels, so I ran there. But I'd only covered half a mile before even the asphalt iced over, so I turned around and walked home in slightly soggy defeat, flinching as the occasional ice pellet bounced off my face.  

Blessings of the snow came later in a whirl of pelting flakes, when I happened to catch sight of a Northern Harrier—a species of small hawk—perched on the fence outside the kitchen window. Maybe attracted by the small birds at my backyard feeder. Enchanted by her wild presence—the royal autumn plumage of rich, brown-and-white-and-black-speckled feathers, puffed up against the cold, and a burning yellow eye—I stared at her, murmuring praise all the while.

And since harriers have exceptional hearing, it could have been the faint sounds of my human words that sent her sweeping off toward the north, tilting against the swirling, white wind. (Am I the only one who finds it difficult to keep my praise and delight to myself when coming face-to-face with such wonders? Which reminds me of something Treebeard said in The Lord of the Rings: "Elves began it, of course, waking trees up and teaching them to speak and learn their tree talk; they always wished to talk to everything, the old Elves did.")

Now the pretty icing of snow has melted off the gingerbread cottage, the shoveling is done, and the harrier is off hunting mice by the light of the Wolf Moon. The longest month is almost over.

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