Midwinter

Rachael. Z. Ikins (c) 2014

It always seems to begin halfway through February. The yearning toward spring. Light lasts appreciably longer and late afternoon is not quite so dark. More birds gather at crowded feeders. Earliest migrators blow in and sit in dejected male groups on bare branches proclaiming their arrival. The tips of the branches which have been conversing with the sun all winter, a conversation too quiet for human ears, begin to swell as the trees pull sap from safe storage deep beneath snow crusted ground in roots, and into the trunk, up the branches, and ultimately out to become swelling buds for a new spring.
Nights, the full wolf moon has blurred the sharpest outer edge. Yet it arcs so steadily across the sky, all the while staring in my window at me on my couch in front of television, that I stare back at it, sure that I can see the movement. On the frozen ground, at temperatures so low it makes me cough, spangles, frost flowers, and broken pieces of magic spell made visible litter the shoulders of the ever growing drifts. Cedar trees, guardians of the front entrance bow their heads with the white weight of winter on their necks.
My eyes flit from this glittering spot to that feathered rush overhead. I cannot imagine how all this frozen water will disappear in approximately 30 days or so. Where will it all go? Two hawks spiral around one another in the clouds of air buoyed by my heated rising breath. I remember two other hawks, another February afternoon in a tiny cottage at the edge of woods, halfway up a mountain. The previous January’s full moon had been celebrated by coyote warble as my dogs and I had stood knee deep in subzero snowfall late one night in our back yard.
I know that chickadees and cardinals start their mating rituals and nest building while the world is still cold and snow covers most of last year. I ‘ve never looked it up, but upon seeing these two hawks, I suspect again, that they, too, begin their sky- dance this time of year.
One July long ago, the summer I turned 12, my avid bird-watching parents brought me on a hike after supper into the woods and fields surrounding our camp. We sat on a ridge with binoculars, lucky enough to have found a grandfather oak tree jutting above the rest and in its top most branches, a red tailed hawk nest. I held my new ” Skipper” doll in one hand and brushed her long blond hair with a tiny pink brush. I wasn’t altogether oblivious to the natural spectacle that enraptured my parents, however. The adult birds came and left with food for the boisterous group. The babies pierced the air with their eager shrieks.
Ever since that summer, my heart has held a special place for hawks. Their plaintive cry expresses the ultimate freedom to me. Yes, for sure they sometimes come to the bird feeders too, and red spattered snow and a few small feathers in a kicked up drift remain as proof that all beings need to eat. I’ve never begrudged them their meals, only marveled at the aerial artistry of predator and prey and maneuverability that determines if today is the death of one and dinner of the other. Will one go hungry in this cold white and lavender place that is midwinter?

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One Response to “Midwinter”

  1. clover58 Says:

    Very nice, Rachael. Some things to learn about, some to ponder, thank you!

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