January 19th, 2018


Winter wonderland and other notes

It started snowing Wednesday at 8 am and just didn't stop. We received around 9" of fluffy and sticky snow which created great billows in the tops of the pines. This is just the thing to cause power outages, and indeed, my sister's family were without power around noon Wednesday to the early evening on Thursday. With their wood stove and gas range, i think they did well, but with lows in the single digits, it's concerning.

Between the many power blinks and knowing my sister was without power leads to a little bit of vigilance. I don't believe the power outages are over, and so i'm still making sure devices are charged, etc.

Wednesday in the late afternoon i stood on the front porch for a while, just watching the pines sway and the occasional avalanche of snow cascading through the branches. Eventually i put on boots and a hat and went out. First, Christine and i pulled out plastic Adirondack style chairs and sat a little beyond the house -- but not beyond enough that the drip in one of the downspouts to be audible. While Christine went somewhere else with her mic to record, i went down the driveway to stand under the pines. Branches weighed with snow creaked, hung in unaccustomed positions, and rubbed against neighbor branches also not in accustomed locations. I listened wishing for a poem to come to mind, but it was more important to soak in the company of the pines, listen to the soft thuds of snow falling out of the branches.

Despite the hard freeze Wednesday to Thursday night, birdseed still sinks down into the snow. Wednesday I cleaned up a bird feeder the previous owners had left and was surprised to find it was pretty high quality: in its filth it looked cheap. I may get addicted to feeding birds outside my work window. I'm trying to tell myself it's just for this weather. I really wish they had shown interest to the sorghum i grew. I assume the birds have worked on the millet in place. Slugger, our male cardinal, looks incredible against the backdrop of snowy trees. The birds found the seed on Thursday and i had the constant company of juncos out my window while working. Tufted titmice are adorable, and there were a few sparrows - hard to distinguish from the juncos as the plumage wasn't particularly striking in contrast. With binoculars i could make out what i think were distinguishing marks on one that would be a savanna sparrow. I noticed birds with yellow plumage several times: i don't know if i'm able to strongly distinguish a pine warbler from an American goldfinch in my memory as when i saw the bird i just assumed it was a goldfinch. A chickadee was probably present, but i only noticed it as a smaller bird than the juncos and only had a fleeting moment with it in the binocular view. The birds aren't far away -- maybe 10'-12' away from the window? But perhaps the windows do need cleaning, and i know my eye sight isn't what i wish it would be.

The crisp clear skies changed the color of the snow: deep footprints became bright blue, shadows a soft blue, and the snow in sunlight a creamy gold with diamond sparkles. When the avalanches of snow fell out of the trees, diamond dust drifted against the bright blue sky.

After work i circumambulated our home's clearing (so greatly extended with our work the past eighteen months). Birds have left marks, and the falling snowballs from trees left pockets, but i didn't see anything looking like the tracks of larger animals. I assume small mammals like voles are happily tunneling at the ground level, snug under the thick blanket.

As of the past hour, i think i'm getting better at junco vs sparrow. The sparrow variations are vexing. Particularly because there's no way of knowing whether one observation is the same individual as the next. Were there white stripes on the wings or was i imagining it? Well, not on this one, but.... [HA: there's at least one white throated sparrow calling out there.]