First Day of Winter

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It’s the first full day of winter. Robins are in the woods behind the post office. Wild turkeys are in the cornfield south of the cemetery and along the river.

Pileated woodpeckers are clinging to tree sides in the park. Juncos gather under the fire bushes and in the mulch and in the underbrush. They speak of winter with their soft voices; soft, squeaky voices that can only be heard if one stands still, very still.

There is green moss on the north sides of dormant trees, and if one looks closely, green moss grows on the hearts of those looking forward to the first warm of spring. A unique light sage green lichen covers American cherry trees recently soaked with winter rain.

Apple red cardinals sit not too far off from an observer who happens to mimic their language. Conversations can be quite rewarding when nature is one of the speakers. A backdrop of yellowed honeysuckle dotted with its own red berries entices all sorts of feathered creatures to share in the bounty.

To the south, in a meadow planted specifically for nature’s creatures, coppery colored prairie grasses lay over, heavy with the wetness of frost. Along walking trails, gray-shadowed purple berry canes lay over too, but from their own weight. They form a sort of tunnel which rabbits love as a thorny haven against aerial pursuers.

Right in the middle of it all an old hitching post is revealed. Hidden in the summer by all things green and bushy, only in the fullness of winter’s light can it be seen, standing as a testament of olden times. Olden winters. 

A bit further south, along old narrow roads, shaggy-coated horses graze in a pasture on a hillside. Sometimes deer mingle in with these gentle beasts, but not today. Along the road is an ever-so tiny creek, rushing into the lower hillside, feeding yards and gardens along the way. A century old sycamore stands not too far off, no doubt drawing some of the icy cold water for itself.

In a fence row, Osage orange trees still have some of their fruits hanging like holiday gewgaws. Deer and squirrels view them as delicious; under the trees are many half-eaten fruits or hedges apples as they are sometimes known as. Pioneers used them to repel spiders and other crawly creatures.

In the same trees, a parcel of crows has congregated for their own secretive purposes. They too have a language which can be imitated by our observer. They are inquisitive enough to converse for a few minutes until they realize the sounds are not coming from above or next to them but from down below where only a human can be seen. Nonsense is what they determine is going on and off they fly.

As evening settles into the land, soft pink and yellow skims of clouds move slowly westward. The air is more than chilly. It is time to go in. Reluctantly, footsteps follow a familiar path to home.

Yes, it is a full day. Having been embraced by sight, sound and heartbeats, we cannot help but count ourselves as having had a heart fulfilling day, one of natural beauty. A sort of refinement if you will. An encounter with the earth, the soft and lovely earth and what it holds.