Something Like Spring

Haven’t been paying much attention to things online because there has been a lot going on offline. Carole left for Pictoplasma in Berlin today and will be gone a week. I’m only a month away from leaving for Vietnam and I’ll be gone six weeks. And the weather has been (slowly) improving, so there have been more dog walks and even a bit of time out on the deck, which faces south, enjoying the spring sun, though the air is still pretty cold and there are no leaves on the trees. Still a few patches of snow in the hollows, but the last of the ice has melted off the river. I’ve been reading a lot of fiction, as well as some things about Modernism, so I think I’ll have some notes to post here and at The Plumbline before long.

Winter Birds / Great Backyard Bird Count

The national winter bird count is coming up soon, in which I will be participating from the comfort of my panoramic bedroom window, with its view of the feeders in my yard. My most common visitors this winter have been goldfinches & chickadees in large numbers, along with quite a few juncos and jays and woodpeckers (downey & hairy); there have also been a pair of starlings hanging around, as well as some nuthatches. I’ve noticed a group of crows down by the river, but they have kept their distance. A couple of days ago I saw a solitary grosbeak, though I’ve seen a group of them up the road when we walk the dogs — we had all kinds of grosbeaks last winter.

Starlings?

A single pair of starlings have been hanging around the feeder the last couple of days — along with all the usual winter birds. I don’t remember seeing starlings in winter before this year. An when you see one, you usually see a flock. This pair dosn’t seem particularly aggressive, sticking to ground feeding, cleaning up the seed the other birds knock out of the feeders.

Cold Snap

As if to remind me to stay inside at my desk writing, the temperature yesterday morning here in South Colton was -22° though it’s a little “warmer” this morning at 5°,we are in for even colder weather over the next few days. The forecast has highs in the single digits below zero (F). Lots of birds taking advantage of the seed & suet I put out. We’ve had the usual lot of chickadees & a huge flock of goldfinches, smaller numbers of juncos, woodpeckers large & small, along with nuthatches & the bluejays, tricked out like 1960s Cadillacs. Yesterday there was a very large hawk –maybe an eagle, we only saw him from the back — perched in one of the snags down by the river. Both yesterday & today Carole has put toe warmers in her boots, donned many layers of clothing, & gone off to the barn in Crary Mills where she boards her horse to muck stalls. What a woman! And she splits the firewood, too! All I have to do is keep feeding the woodstove. Which reminds me…

Sabbatical: Day 1

I guess I could have begun counting from the final day of classes last semester, but today is the first day I would have gone into the classroom had I been teaching, so this feels like the first official day of my sabbatical. Have I said that I am wildly grateful for such a luxury? If I haven’t, I am. At a time when many of my fellow citizens are losing their jobs, don’t have health insurance, lack adequate housing, etc., to be paid to sit home & think feels almost immoral. Perhaps that’s an old streak of Protestantism coming to the surface; if so, it’s a reminder that Protestantism was originally about social justice and individual dignity / responsibility. The best way I can see to redeem — don’t you love how the religious vocabulary emerges? — my time is to make effective use of it. So far, this has been a pretty lazy winter break: I’ve done a lot of reading, but dropped studying Vietnamese; I wrote a couple of stories, but haven’t looked at any of my poems in weeks; I’ve shoveled a good deal of snow, but I have been very lazy in the kitchen, falling into auto-cook mode most of the time.

I’m going to try to blog regularly during the sabbatical, mostly as a form of self-discipline & self-reflection. I’m not oing to make any foolhardy commitments to post something every day, but that will be my goal, even if it’s just a squib or a report on local bird life or what I cooked for dinner. With luck, there will also be more substantial bits as well. Anyway, it’s cold & snowy this morning & I probably won’t go farther afield today than the post office (though Carole is heading off to work in a few minutes), so the weather is cooperating: no excuse but to get some real work done.