Thursday, January 21, 2010

After the Snow

After the snow, an early morning walk with the dogs, Lucy and Sam, my two standard poodles. The sun was behind us, just rising, casting the few remaining low hanging clouds pink. The sky was baby blue, the air still. A thick layer of snow rested on branches, blue spruce, Austrian pine, white pine, white birch, gray birch. The cold felt clean on my cheeks. The world was luminous. Magical.

A plow had come in the night, packing snow on the driveway, on the dirt road where I walked with dogs, their noses to the ground or heads held high to pick scent out of the air. Sam stopped walking. He tilted his head, listening. I listened, too. Then, I heard it, a tiny high pitched sound, and I knew. A cardinal. Where? A flash of red inside my white world. We stood and we watched, the dogs and I, as the cardinal hopped deeper into a thicket of bittersweet vines, and I thought of how I’d hated those vines all summer long, then into fall, cutting, pulling, then discarding. Now, a few berries clung to those vines, food for the cardinal, hopping, now, and making it’s single high pitched chirp. Another bird in the thicket. “Perhaps, it’s mate,” I’d thought. No. A smaller bird, one with a puffy belly. A chickadee? No smaller still. I'd wanted to say sparrow, but I wasn’t sure sparrows had stuck around.

The day before, my husband had called me to a window. “The fox,” he’d said. I was too late, but I’d seen the fox before, if not that one, then several others, once four pups playing in grass near where I’d stopped to watch the cardinal. “It had a bushy tail,” my husband said.

That was code for: the fox is healthy. We liked a healthy fox. We hated seeing a mangy diseased fox. We wanted animals to live here, fox, skunk, raccoon, opossum, porcupine, turkeys, deer—and yes, an occasional moose. We didn’t like the fact that the recent building boom in our neighborhood had reduced their habitat. Now, with the Recession, the building has stopped. I’m pleased about that, pleased, too, that our animal population seemed resilient. But I’m a dreamer. I’d like a plan. A way to preserve open space and habitat, along with development.

The dogs and I walked on.