Yesterday, although bitterly cold, was so bright and fresh, I wanted to be outside. I gathered twigs and branches as kindling for the fireplace. We’ve had a fire every night recently – a beautiful, antidote to the cold night – even if it’s mostly aesthetic. Then I decided to prune back the butterfly bushes. I’d intentionally left them an explosion of woody branches until now, to provide a perch for the birds and perhaps, seed still hidden in the dried-out flower heads. Yesterday, I lobbed them off. While I was at it, I tackled the roses. I know: you real gardeners out there are probably flinching. What was I thinking? Somewhere in my memory banks I recalled that roses should be cut before spring. Only today I read it’s best to do so when at least the forsythia is in bloom. Uh-oh. But look, I took this photo yesterday — proof that spring is on its way.
In any case, that wasn’t what I was going to tell you about. While out cutting back the Budelia bush, Nuthatches started to swoop around on their way to the feeder beside me. Iphone in my shaky hand, I tried to get a photo or two. Standing there in the cold, very still, the birds tweeting about me, I flashed back to being a young girl. I was up in the woods behind the house my parents owned in Canaan, NY, our weekend get-away from NYC. I loved it there. A city kid by birth, I longed to be a nature-girl, living in the woods, eating off the land and while there, I pretended I was. A Stalking the Wild Asparagus devotee – I even dug up dandelions from Van Cortlandt park and cooked up the little flower buds for my 5th grade classmates at PS 95. (hint: butter makes anything yummy)
Wandering alone ‘up the hill’ into the woods behind the house was heaven for me. Stepping gingerly, trying to be quiet enough I might catch sight of a deer. In early summer, I searched for wild strawberries and blueberries in the hidden field on the other side of the wood. I dozed in that abandoned meadow, absorbing bird and insect sounds but mostly silence. Sometimes, in the winter, I stood for what seemed forever in the snow, my arm still as a lamp post, bird seed in my cupped hand, hoping a fearless Nuthatch might land on me to steal a snack. They came so close, chirping in my ear, inching upside down along the branches very near to me, yet never touched my icy hand.
Yesterday, standing by the feeder, that girl again, I recalled the joy I found in my walks, in those frozen moments of watching and hoping for contact. And this time, trying at least for a good photo. As you can see, not much success – but still, it was precious, being still, watching, waiting. A kind of meditation and a sweet reminder to me of what decades later, remains a way to peace.