Been a busy couple of weeks out here on Trout Brook. We had to chip our way out of three inches of frozen water when we returned from our thrice-delayed flights, coming and going from God’s Waiting Room, Florida. Key West bucks the geriatric definition, though, with its vibrant sense of color and life. My favorite memory of our two days there was a sixtyish gent, bald as an egg, in a white lace onesie and knee-high white leather boots, riding his bike down Duval Street, angel wings flapping in the soft breeze. Jimmy Buffett would have written an opera for him. The break was good for both of us, though coming home to a doorstep encased in frozen snow at one in the morning brought us back to reality quick. I know, no whining.
This morning, at five above, I looked out my office window in time to see a fox trotting across the back forty, proud and fearless of human interference. I have to think he was happy about the fact he’d caught his supper—the bushy tail of a gray squirrel hung from the side of his mouth as he loped across the frozen snow. In the sun, this didn’t seem like a tragedy, especially after what the squirrels inflicted on my kale last year. I can’t speak for the squirrel’s frame of mind.
It reminded me of another morning last winter when I watched a red-tailed hawk circle the big maple in the back yard, maybe six or eight feet off the ground. The raptors usually hunt from height, so I was surprised to see him flying so low, until a panicky squirrel, clinging desperately to the bark, circled the maple, trying to avoid the hawk’s attention. A flutter of wings on the back side of the tree, a cry I could hear even through my thermopane windows, and the squirrel and hawk descended to a flurry on the ground. When I went out to investigate later, I found bloody snow, tufts of gray hair, and not much else. So there are predators and prey. I suppose we’d all rather identify with the former.
My more or less constant companion at the writing desk this winter has been a lady bug. As you may know, they sneak into the warm house in the fall and look for places to hibernate. It’s not uncommon on a warmish winter day to see swarms on your windows, if your house isn’t tight. This is the only one I hosted this winter, and I’m not sure how she got caught in the room.
I did, every morning, brush her carefully off the words I’d written the day before so I could start my work. I dubbed her Louie and when I would look out the window to ponder, she would entertain me with double back flips and buzzing wings and walking stiff legged across my deathless prose. Was I kinder to her because she was so small? Or because I couldn’t eat her?
Not sure what any of this means, except as a reminder that life can feel nasty, brutish, and short, especially in a Maine winter. We can choose to feel as if we’re being eaten by the cold and the dark. Or we can hold onto the image of Louie, lying on her back, flapping madly to get herself back upright, onto her legs. To trundle on. Trundle on, folks. Trundle on—the sun is returning.