19 Jan

Morning Hunger

The air is bitter, its winter wind brutal, and barren trees feel the cold not only in their branches, but in their trunks as well, creaking to their core. The tamed timbers of the house creek too as the wind outside thunders by like a train. The house shivers.

Steam rises from the mug cupped in my hands. I breathe in its warmth and await my morning guests.

Outside the window, a frozen tundra blankets the yard. Snow has fallen overnight, and in the morning light snowflakes dance with the wind. I wonder whether the snow has, in fact, stopped falling from the sky. Such is the power of the wind, its spirit seen only in the movement of those it touches. I watch the snowy dance.

Before long, my guests begin to arrive. Where they came from I do not know, but they approach on feathered wings and they too dance with the wind. One by one, they alight on the branches of a nearby tree like perched ornaments. Then, taking turns – and sometimes not – they begin to feast at the feeder swaying outside the window.

Dark-eyed juncos are the first to feast. They look like a community of mendicant monks just back from morning prayer. Dressed in feathered black habits, they dine together, leaping from branch to feeder and back to branch again. Black-capped chickadees soon join the banquet, and before long word has spread to the tufted titmouse. Even the nuthatch, creeping down the trunk of the tree in his oddball way, sneaks in for a bite.

A flash of red darts through the sky and perches in the tree. The lone cardinal watches and waits. I do the same. He looks familiar, this bird dressed in red. As if we’ve met before. Perhaps we have.

Without warning, he bounds on the feeder and the smaller birds take flight. He pecks at the sunflowers, but not for long, for the backyard bully is in flight. The blue jay arrives, crashing into the feeder and sending seeds scattering like a torn piñata. Chickadees and juncos plod along the snowy ground, scavenging for birdfeeder flotsam.

A howling gust of wind soars by, sending the birds back to their hiding spots. I take a sip from my mug. Warmth pours through my body.

The banquet never gets old, and day after day it feeds my soul. Why, I wonder, as I take another sip.

Perhaps it is because somehow, birds have found a way to harness the wind, capturing its spirit and giving them the gift of flight. Angels have wings, after all.

And so it is that I find myself returning to this daily feast, in envy and in awe of our winged brothers and sisters, and longing to capture the spirit as well.

With their banquet over and the feeder and trees deserted, I slip on a hat and coat and retreat to the yard. The door almost blows off its hinges as I leave the house behind.

I force it shut, and join the wind.