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first snow

Our first snow of the year has come and gone several times over the course of the day: big, fat, wet flakes that lay down an inch or two of snow efficiently and then melt away. Just before the snow begins to fall again in earnest the birds come to the feeders that Vic keeps full of seed and suet blocks and seed blocks. Our usual flock moves excitedly from one food source to another, Juncos, House Wrens, Nuthatches and Chickadees moving through the whitening branches and perching on the tomato cages, while from the undergrowth the Towhee asks his (or her) one-note question over and over, “What?” And then after a pause, “What?” For the third year we have hummingbirds wintering over and they are feeding today, too.

As the snow thickens everything quiets and you can hear wings working in quick bursts, or the sandy sound of a bigger bird like a Flicker landing on the fig tree. The smaller woodpeckers come in pairs – I think they are Downy – cocking their heads and peering about jerkily. As nervous as they look, they are the last to fly off if a door or gate is opened and a human comes into view. Snow brings the shy ones out, like the Townsend Warbler we rarely see, with his yellow head and shoulders.

Across the room from where I write, the cat sleeps on his pillow, gently snoring while Ollie patrols the yard’s perimeter and races back toward the house, stopping to lick snow.

These past few weeks I have been adjusting to a new job and have been meditating on and writing down my goals for the year. The strategy of what this year’s position should mean to a narrative about my working life; what new skills I’d like to learn or share with colleagues; the word counts and chapters and drafts I intend to complete and be accountable for; the illustrations for a picture book that have been haunting me and how I can form a story from their first glimmerings. Watching the birds feed as I sit at my laptop I realize I need to add this to my list: Pay attention, listen, watch and take the time to appreciate this moment. The first snow of the new year.

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