Five Reasons to Love the Long Nights of Winter

This poem is one I wrote maybe a decade ago, but it still expresses something important to me about the beauty, peace, and comfort of this time of year.

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After a bright afternoon’s quickening light
To be cradled by dusk,
Its slowly sit-down darkening

To contemplate the softening outline of the old cat
Curled warm on your grey-trousered lap

To watch the women and men with briefcases and backpacks
Walk from the bus toward darkened houses

To see a glow appear here or there and know
The tired homecomings have begun

To unravel the mysteries of your heart
That can only be glimpsed when the busy sun
Pulls up its thick shadows
And the arms of the evening encompass all

____________________

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Ark

All night the wind filled with snow howls against our walls.
What happens to the animals,
or people still outside
I do not know.

Small ship on a vast ocean our house sails alone through the gale.
Carries us fretting to the borders of morning,
the furnace and the radio
land ahoy.

~~~

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One by one,

One by one,
winter lifts its long fingers from the deep freeze
where they have grown, collecting crystals
month by month

with its diamond file
sharpens them precisely then slips out to
test an edge on the skin of our necks
and back it goes

sitting in the shimmering dark
wearing the glimmer of a smile
as it hones and shapes, and the wind
comes calling

~~~

Rhyming couplets for unmatched snowflakes

Snow and snow is all I know
It comes and stays and doesn’t go

It bundles me in peace and calm
The days so short the dark nights long

We play a bit and rest much more
Our weary bodies we restore

Snow and snow I’m glad to know
It’s not yet time for you to go

Life’s little brown jobs

I love being at home. It’s not that anything remarkable happens there. It’s that a succession of unremarkable moments, when truly inhabited, turn out to be quite beautiful.

Rae bird feederRae side view

When I have time around my actions to feel the rhythm of the day unfolding, I also have time to observe the details of my life in a way that lets me see how incredible all of this is, and that some sort of “I” in me feels privileged to be aware of it.

Just like the little brown jobs or LBJs my bird-watching friends talk about (nod to A_Span and MRM III) — the hard-to-distinguish (especially female) birds of the perching passerine family, such as sparrows or wrens, whose similarities can make their various species hard for humans to accurately identify — the moments of my days at home are small, hardly varying on the surface, but full of song.

Take today. I’m talking like someone knowledgeable about birds, but I know almost nothing. However, thanks to Bob at Gilligalou Bird Inc. in Almonte, ON, I know more today than I did yesterday. Tuesday on my way to meet a friend for lunch I stopped in at Gilligalou to ask how to put suet into the feeder I had bought the other week at the co-op. You’d think it was easy, but at my first go, I felt totally inept. Bob interrupted his own lunch to answer my 15 minutes of questions about what birds eat, and to explain the importance of small to large seeds, nuts, and mealworms, and some of the best ways to provide these.

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He told me about Gilligalou’s specially formulated blends, with no filler, that give wild birds optimal selection and nutrition; showed me various styles of feeder; talked about habitat; and reassured me that I’m not being a bad citizen if my feeders go for a few days without being filled. The birds will come back, but they will establish a habit of eating at my house to the extent that I provide them with a reliable food supply, water, cover, and nesting opportunities.

So today I spent a fun and messy half hIMG_20160106_133307our with seed and suet. First, I filled my old feeder – left behind by the home’s previous owners – with seed for the perchers and the ground feeders.

 

Next I crammed two types of suet – a peanut blend, and a mealworm blend – into the different holes of the wooden IMG_20160106_133422hanging feeder I bought the other week at the co-op. It’s the first time I’ve held a mealworm, and although they made me jump for a second, I’m most intrigued.

Next step: a proper feeder with rails for the ground-feeding birds, since there is nowhere for them to land on the seed feeder I have now. In the meantime, I’m trusting they will continue to gather the big seeds from the snow where they fall as the smaller birds eat. And after that: well, I have dreams, but I’ll be happy with life’s LBJs.

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17 January, 2016 – Update: This week’s visitors include chickadees, juncos, a multitude of posturing jays, a male house finch, downy woodpeckers, and a discriminating cardinal.