Hard winter: shut in and seeing out

The roof leaks under tons of snow and ice.  The bathroom, in the high frequency, pitty-pat gurgles of children playing.  The kitchen, in the flat plops of its plastic bucket.   I check the jar in the library window.  At this rate, it’ll fill up by noon.  Red water, like the cherry window frames.

Hanging outside the sunroom window is the icicle.  Icicle is too fragile a word.  At the gutter, it’s maybe thigh-wide.  And as we say in New England, a good eight feet long, with rings of ice-fat.  I think of a see-through Michelin tire boy.  By ten o’clock, it’s dripping like a 1940s fawcet.  That’s a crater it’s making beneath.  To see what it’ll do next, I put my pen down and find excuses to be in the sunroom.  We should leave it there, this glassy stalactite. This crystal curtains.  No harm.  It’s a museum piece.  Temporary art.

I’m still a Southerner at heart.  We saved a dogwood last summer from encroaching shadow-giants.  For light, it leans southeast, an F in italics.  Its arms bring to mind a font the Brothers Grimm might have designed for The Frog Prince, or Lillian Hellman for The Little Foxes.  Crazed fingers-with-fingers.  Sun seeking, frozen and black-foresty against the field of snow that climbs the hill to the vineyard.

Gran’mama’s wrought iron love seat, solid in its present black over many coats of hundred-year-old green, is buried.  Only a scrolled corner sticks out.  A perch for Noah’s dove in this winter’s Deluge.  A chickadee this time.

My partner in hip boots digs shovel-width paths to the bird feeders and the bird bath. There’s a loyal population to feed.  Squirrels can’t be seen down in the troughs.  But the skinned-back, red turkey heads bob by – ga-lump ga-lump ga-lump – along the new turkey road.

Last night, high in the bare trees on the north side, the turkeys looked like tumble weeds, but thirty degrees east of their usual longitude.  Buddies, the two of them snapped out fan tails for balance.  High wire walkers, they’re an awkward a species at these heights.  Not the place to pick at fleas (but they do), nor to dress feathers.  But just so.  Then they slept. Headless and still, they faced north, both of them, into the wind that was to come, according to Accuweather.  But they knew this.

But now the turkeys peck at sunflower seeds splashed on the ground by profligate squirrels who have unlocked the secret to yet another bird feeder.  Some squirrels are smarter than others, I’ve noticed.  They learn; they teach their friends.

If I had written a thousand words of non-fiction this morning, I would have missed all this amazing stuff of the present.  I report all this to my partner who calls mid-afternoon.  I’ll go to Borders to write now, I say.

“Remember to empty the buckets before you leave,” he says.

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