Sunday, February 20, 2011

Winter blue

Whenever I'm overtaken by the winter blues, I turn my attention to blue -- my favorite color, which appears in unique shades only during the winter and gives my heart a lift.

The most magically beautiful blue: Full moon on snow. This is like a bright, sunny day with an indigo filter over it, etching long, sharp shadows and crisp details into a blue-and-white world.

Its opposite: The day after a fresh snowfall. The sky, as my spouse calls it, is "severe clear," giving sheets of azure above sheets of dazzling white.

In between: Pastel tints of bluish lavender outlining the contours of the land beneath the snow and crossing it with shadows. Reflected above in cloud striations that promise more snow to come.

Then there's ice: Frozen waterfalls down escarpments, where groundwater is captured in the act of succumbing to gravity, its minerals glowing teal through silvery masses.

Local people harness the same flow into free-form ice sculptures by sticking a hose into a spring and letting its pressure spray the surrounding landscape. These accumulate into huge, sea-blue mounds that can last until May! I guess that's their way of dealing with winter blues.

Carolyn Haley

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Remember our feathered friends

February is National Bird-Feeding Month, did you know? I'm happy to learn that this activity rates the attention of people who decide such things!

For me, every month is bird-feeding month. I invite wild birds into my yard for two reasons:

(1) I love having them around, easy to see from the window or while puttering in the yard. Also, my mom is an avid bird-watcher and enjoys the show when she visits. Birds are my neighbors; my companions; my entertainment; my reminder of what's going on out there in the natural world.

(2) Birds are also a gardener's friend, feasting on bugs that might otherwise feast on my vegetables. As well, they spread seeds around, resulting in delightful surprises.

A third reason, which I don't like to think about, is habitat destruction and climate change, which are making it harder for birds and other critters to survive. So I feel obligated to provide an additional food source for them.

Mostly, though, birds are part of the whole garden equation: soil, plants, bugs, birds, bees, butterflies, mammals, water, sun, and the eternal cycle of birth-growth-death. And this time of year, the tail end of a hard winter, food is particularly scarce for wild things. No matter where you live, there are birds that could use some extra seed or suet to help them along.

Here at (approx.) latitude 43N, longitude 72W, and altitude 1300 ft., our midwinter bird population comprises a dozen chickadees; one or two each of titmouse, red- and white-breasted nuthatch, and downy and hairy woodpeckers; the recently arrived red-bellied woodpecker; a family of crows and at least one pair of ravens; wild turkeys in male (5) and female (15) groups; intermittent mourning doves and ruffed grouse; around ten noisy blue jays; invisible but occasionally heard barred owls; and every few years (this is one of them), visiting flocks of redpolls. Most of these feathered friends await my arrival with freshly filled sunflower and thistle seed tubes, along with a brick of suet, every morning.

If you don't already feed the birds at your place, brighten up your February and start!

Carolyn Haley

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