Blue Jays, Cardinals, and Juncos are my constant January companions, but Blue Jays bullies are no match for the little Downy Woodpecker female who dominates the suet cake. She doesn’t take shit from anyone. I hear her mutter, “Don’t you dare touch my suet feeder.” The Chickadees, my faithful friends, grab sunflower seed from a different feeder and bang them into a tree branch to win their prize.
I help the birds survive. They pay me with winter beauty and signs of life.
After a recent foot of snow, I ask myself why I live in the country on this wild and beautiful land. I complain to my son about how cold it is when the wind blows and how crazy I am to live here. This is the entrance moment for his lines:
He’s right. I do.
“And in a few months you’ll tell me how you love the first yellow Trout Lilies in the forest.”
He’s right. I will.
I find beauty in winter most days. Besides birds, the quiet frozen world suits my damaged hearing. I know the best paths to avoid the brutal wind that comes from living high on a hill with spectacular views. If I keep moving and endure the west wind a few minutes more, I stand in a grove of thick trunked oaks. The tall beauties soften the fierceness of the wind, or maybe they just keep me company.
My dogs wear fleece vests—orange for black Disco and red for brown Willow. This zero degree morning, they run around the field, do their business (that’s what my grandma called it), and rush inside, shaking the cold off their feet. After breakfast, they huddle near the woodstove, snoring quietly, not worried about being productive or writing something worth sharing or doing the taxes. They have the wisdom to rest.
Although he died almost 13 years ago, I think of Vic, because I miss him most in the dead of winter. He loved the challenge of cold and a big snow storm. He loved going first on snowshoes to carve a trail for me. Sometimes he made a thermos of hot chocolate to share with our sons in the forest. The three of them loved a snowball fight.
On winter walks with the dogs, I climb the hill to Vic’s cairn where we buried his ashes. I lean toward the top stone and gently kiss the cold, wishing it were warm. I thank him for all he gave and tell him I’m all right because it’s true. There are Monarch Butterflies in my future and endless memories of love. I have birds and dogs, friends and sons, and a pile of dry firewood on the front porch.
How do you handle the isolation of life with covid restrictions? Do you live in a place with a fierce winter or blistering hot summer? Have you had to deal with fires and drought? Do friends or animal companions help you through these challenging times?