The nasally, low-pitched notes of the nuthatch enter through my bedroom window (open even in winter and appreciated from beneath the comforters) and I sense my own reawakening. The white-breasted’s wha-wha-wha notes enter non-committedly, sliding in softly from the maples in the yard, or perhaps from the woods across the road.
For me, it signifies a change– a season slowly breaking in mid-February from the constancy of cold and snowy New York weather to the possibility of spring. Here, the winter resoluteness has been good in spite of the promise of another snowstorm and the continuity of cold weather for weeks to come. It’s been good despite the mayhem of extremes bringing trouble to innumerable other sections of the country and the world.
I’ve rather enjoyed the season’s immutability, the sense of constancy, the lack of extreme cold or warmth, as if for tradition’s sake alone. The weather has been good for skiers and snowmobilers, good for my writing efforts and work inside, and for getting a sense of that natural torpor that some creatures of the northland must employ in order to survive the season.
The nuthatch out my window seems to inquire, Wha-wha–what’s been happening? Well, I’ve been hearing the red fox barking on occasion and, at other times throughout the long cold nights, coyotes have sustained a wild and varied chorusing of howls nearby. The ravens, one of my singular bird contacts through the winter, have joined the crows and starlings massed on freshly manured fields, and one of them has settled on a dead raccoon beside the road.
The American robin has begun its slow migration toward the north, and I’ve just seen the first brave members of the vanguard here. I’ve searched the river wetland where I’ve found the skunk cabbage soldiering on in February these last few years but, alas, now its spring heart lies beneath the ice and snow. Perhaps it, too, awaits the wha-wha-wha of the nuthatch or the fee-bee calls of the chickadee in order to discard its whitened mantle and get down to business.
Above the place where the skunk cabbage sleeps/ while its engine purrs and generates heat,/ may I pause and ponder the approach of spring–/ wander by the river’s edge and dream of trout,/ then ramble backward to the deep ravine,/ content with a coat of freshened snow.