A pair of crows call to me as I walk. They wear their black boldly, contrasting against the snow and, with no leafy canopies to hide within, I have no trouble following them as they rise from ground to tree. “I hear you!” I shout back and continue on my way. I have been warned that the crows’ call is a sad one but I sense no sorrow in this cawing from on high. There is only the joy of flight from treetop to treetop as I make my way below on this cold winter afternoon.
The blue gray of the trees’ long shadows are stretching across the snow blanketing the yards. The sun plays with the sculpted edges of the snowflakes, causing a glittering, sparkling dance of light. A shadow jumps… I look upward toward the tree that casts the shadow just as an ash gray squirrel leaps from solid branch to precarious twig. He hangs for a suspenseful moment, swinging as if about to fall, before scrambling up to a more secure perch. I can’t tell if he is looking down at near death or up at the next highest branch. He shakes his tail in dismissal of the risk. No time to linger over self doubt, he throws himself into the seemingly empty air again and repeats the acrobatics.
I notice the green of the holly tree ahead shaking. Closer, I hear the chirping of the robins that the glossy leafed greenery hides. Dozens of the fluttering birds are sheltered within the tree as they feast on the berries there. They fly out and back again as I approach, red breasts against the green of holly. Robins have always been a harbinger of spring arriving but, here, in my Kentucky neighborhood, they gather and wait patiently for the dogwoods to blossom, passing the time eating holly berries.
I continue along with snow crunching beneath my boots, noticing a house with icicles hanging from the gutters like icy fingers pointing toward the door in welcome, catching the sun in their knuckles and nails. Is the cozy home filled with the smell of baking bread and is a huge pot of soup being stirred on the stove for tonight’s dinner? Are chocolate chip cookies cooling on the rack, just in time for the children’s homecoming?
Although I am bundled in my warmest winter clothing, my breath indicates how cold the air is as I exhale warmth into the frigid surroundings. If these vapors could hold my thoughts, words suspended in the air, I would gladly watch them rise and disappear into the sky. I only want to celebrate the cold earth beneath me, knowing that each step lands me exactly where I am meant to be and that every breath I take is enough for the moment.
Winter is a time of shade and light playing off each other. The light is so bright and clear that it can hurt the eyes but look you must! When I consider some of the most wondrous scenes I have witnessed, many were against a backdrop of snow: the delicate etchings of a sparrow’s bird prints, a red fox walking silently across a field buried in snow, the contours of ice frozen little by little at a pond’s edge, the miracle of Canada geese walking on a thin, invisible layer of black ice, the bleached white bark of a sycamore tree against a pale blue sky the color of my father’s eyes, the proud intensity of a cardinal’s red feathers, individual pine needles dipped in ice like candles dipped in wax. It is unlikely that summer would allow the space to walk between the raindrops but you may be able to dance between falling snowflakes in the cold season! How much more welcome the sun’s embrace on a cold, winter day!
Approaching home again, I pause to watch the smoke rising from a chimney. It, also, casts a shadow on the snow, curling and uncurling. There are secrets in those configurations that can only be deciphered from the skies. Perhaps the crows are reading them. I am not able although I believe that it is a prayer of thanks for a cold winter day and all her chilly blessings!
It matters not whether walking along a city sidewalk or following a mountainside trail — I remind myself to look for the many gifts that nature offers.
Photo by hwannaa