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Monday, December 21, 2009


Bleeps from all over the house awoke us this morning as the electricity went off. All the gadgets of our electronic age wanted to be sure we knew that we were now in a primitave state without cell phone chargers or digital clocks. We looked out the window and saw what many were seeing, the east coast was blanketed in snow. Here on the western foothills of the Appalachians we have about five  inches.  Much more fell, but the ground was warm and the air fluxuated between 33-32 degrees so much of the snow melted as it landed. We have just enough to drive the birds to the feeders in droves, each awaiting its turn while sitting impatiently within the branches of the sugar maple outside my window.

This is the first day for the cardinals to appear at the feeders, though I've spotted them on the edges of the yard picking up pieces of dropped sunflower seeds or whatever else they are finding.  The jays, too waited for enough snow before they bothered to "hit up" the feeders.  Once they are back in the habit, we can expect them to act as alarms letting us know when the feeder has been emptied.  Covering the ground are the quiet, dark, round juncos.  I've read that they travel only a few hours in winter, leaving their homes higher in the mountains for the relatively more temperate lowlands.  Our juncos stay on the ground, content to eat whatever has been dropped by other birds. 

Just after dawn I took some corn, bread crumbs and cocktail weenies down by the barn to set out for the crows or whatever else ventured out of the snow.  It wasn't long before a lone black bird showed up for breakfast.  It hopped around the snow, dipping its head under in its quest for food.  The crow's actions frustrated me because it was several feet away from where I had just put a handfuls of shelled corn.  Hopping through snow that often covered her legs and part of her belly could not have been easy.  Every few hops the crow jumped into the air shaking its wings to clear the snow.

She was working so hard to find bits left over from the previous day's offerings. I wanted to yell out the window in crow talk, "Look behind you. Go a bit to your right!" But, of course, I didn't.  I kept quiet and still at the window. Keeping watch as the crow flew into a tree close to the house, I was sure that it was eyeing the mob at the feeder but I was wrong, She was checking out the field across the road where I had previously layed food for the deer. Among the corn-filled cobs I had disbursed earlier, were three cobs sticking straight up in the snow, vertical, yellow sentinals pinpointing the location of food.

She made a few dives for the corn, carrying each kernal back up to the tree to survey the area before heading back into the snow for more.  It wasn't long, though, despite my stealth, that she noticed me in the window and flew away after several loud caws.
Snow continued to fall throughout the day, covering the trees branches like thick, white buttercream icing, causing laden limbs to bend toward the white ground.  It was a good day to stay home.  This storm came with plenty of warning.  The day before we had stocked up on groceries and firewood so we were ready and had no reason to leave our  hill.  There was plenty to do at home and with Christmas only a week away, there were still presents to wrap and a tree that needed decorating.
I shoveled some sidewalks leaving dark strips dissecting the plane of white both in front and behind the house. The world had become so bright and beautiful that it was hard not to keep taking pictures. Whether it was the splash of red on the thickly covered evergreens as cardinals landed, or the hay field without a blade of grass in sight, temptations were almost irresistible. Even the Christmas wreath I made last week demanded to be digitally remembered.

 Snow continued to fall throughout the day in a fine mist of white, sometimes melting as fast as it fell. A friend plowed the blacktop hill part of our driveway so we knew there would be no problem getting down the next morning.  For now, though, we were both content to remain hill bound surrounded by white, entertained by birds.  We put lights and decorations on the tree, put a few more decorations around the house and swept up more of the never dwindling supply of lady beetles lining the window sills.  It was a good day.
As evening fell, the birds took to the trees to huddle through another night.  Fading light brought out the deer who were hungry and seeking spots where food magically appeared each evening: Seven ears for seven deer. At first only three deer came; two concentrating on eating while the third seemed to be distracted, eating a bit, then coming around the doe only to be quickly chased away.  Several times he crossed the road entering the yard right outside our window, perhaps ready for sunflower seeds, or perhaps searching for anything else besides corn.  Each time he dipped his head, his nose would dissappear beneath the snow only to reappear covered in frosty white crystals.

The next morning we awoke to only a bit more snow as we dressed for church-the fourth Sunday of advent-and a trip to Columbus, Ohio to retrieve our son and daughter-in-law.  We knew they would not be impressed by our meager blizzard as they were arriving from Lake Tahoe, Nevada where a foot of snow was the norm for an overnight fall.  Still, we all were happy as we drove entered the woods, a winter wonderland of white welcoming us to our home where smoke still trailed from the chimneys letting us know that warmth awaited us inside.

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