Thursday, March 2, 2017

Journal: Juncos and the Black Sentinels of the Wood

6:45 am. Weather is cloudy and unseasonably warm. I've padded out to the kitchen to make my cup of tea- silently, silently so as to keep the early morning to myself. While waiting for the water to boil I am kneeling on the floor, sifting through the shoe bin by the door looking for my slippers. My head is just above the level of the window sill and I am peeking out at the world from a perspective I rarely see. At first my eyes seem to see bits of ground picking themselves up and moving around. Then I realize it is a flock of about twenty little juncos, hopping around, foraging for the tiny seeds they like to eat. The dark-eyed junco is well-clothed for this, as long as it's not snowy, in which case they would stand out very nicely as a tasty treat for a passing hawk.

Suddenly in the distance I see a dark shape in the air above the trees, and the bits of earth suddenly rise up en masse into the shelter of the trees, and I hear the forest sentinel cawing out its warning. Why are crows such a symbol of death and terror, anyway? I protest. Without them there would be a lot *more* death and terror.  I love to see a crow stationed at his post in the top-top of a swaying spruce tree, surveying the world. At the first sign of danger he caw, caw caws, and all the small creatures of the forest know to take cover.

I wonder if one of the juncos is deaf. Or brave, or very foolish. He continues to hop about even though the rest of flock is sitting fifteen feet above his head. The alarm passes and all the junco leafs flutter back to the ground and begin scouring the ground again. I'm glad I just cleared out these garden beds. It must be hard to hop around in the deep leaf litter when your legs are one inch long. But now all the leaves are gone to make way for growing things and the juncos are as pleased as punch that all sorts of goodies are uncovered.

I notice a flash of blue and there it is- a lovely bluebird perched outside the bird house, ducking its head in and out of the hole to peeping babies I can't hear from behind the glass.

My tea is ready and I am padding back down the hall to my room, my thinking and writing and drawing place by the window, when Callum sits up in bed with a happy squeal at seeing me up and awake. I guess I'm not going to have the morning to myself anymore, but it's worth it to start the day with that smile and and arms held out for a tight octopus hug, little legs wrapping around my middle and kisses on my cheek.

PS. If you are wondering just what a flock of juncos looks like, here is an excellent photo of juncos on a blog post by Al Larson.

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