Saturday, January 1, 2011


In Birdland we’re having a thaw. The lovely snow covering has changed my yard to a soggy bog interrupted by islands of dirty snow. The wind is warm, and the grass shows some green amongst the frostbitten brown, while robins (Yes, Robins!) hop around in my yard. Are we really deep in winter on the cusp of this new year?

Ellis has gone to Texas to see his cousins. The absence of my youngest makes a quiet house, and I’m taking advantage of my solitude to do some organizing. I pulled out everything from the living room closet. A couple of coats of white paint will make it brighter, and it will be easier to keep organized. That’s the theory, anyway. Every time I tell people what I’m doing with my break, they laugh, but I’m enjoying both the task and the metaphor.

It reminds me of a story my grandmother used to tell, about a chalice that was gleaming on the outside, but dirty inside. I used to pay special attention to scrubbing out the insides of the cups when I did dishes as a child, thinking that as long as the cup was clean inside, the outside didn’t matter so much. At any rate, one final coat of paint, and then I’ll put things back in the closet in a more orderly fashion. I’m hoping it will be more difficult to put what I don’t really need back into such a nice, fresh closet, so I’ve got a box ready to fill with donations for the thrift store.

This year I’ve been behind since autumn. Usually we cut a Christmas tree on Thanksgiving weekend, but I’ve always thought it would be romantic to cut one Christmas Eve. My grandmother used to tell about lighting the tree, with candles of course, for only a few minutes on Christmas Eve, like a birthday cake to be blown out after a brief show. Her father would light the candles, keeping a bucket of water nearby to douse the tree if it went up in flames (as, I think, it sometimes did). Romantic or not, I got my wish; this year we didn’t get up the hill to cut a tree until Christmas Eve, and I woke up early Christmas morning to decorate it. I pulled out the contents of the living room closet, but couldn’t find my decorations.

They must be in the upstairs closet, in the room where Dylan, my middle boy, was still sleeping. In the living room closet I found only the shoeboxes of cards of Christmases Past. Stringing them on lines to border all the doorways is my favorite part of decorating, so I did that first. It took an hour or more, because I had to pause and read some, remembering old friends and wondering how they’re getting along. When I was finished, Dylan was still sleeping, so I decided to forget about the tin of decorations and use the leftover Christmas cards on the tree.

I like it; it’s spare and simple that way—no lights, and only a few strands of beads and ribbons for garland. It will be much easier to take down when the time comes.

I glance out the window to see more robins have joined the party. Seriously. On every side of the house, kitchen window, living room, bedroom…I run up to the attic, yes that side too… fifty or more robins hopping and foraging in the yard. They won’t stand still and be counted. More swoop down from the trees. I watch two dueling, their red breasts puffed up to bump chests like human athletes. I’ve never witnessed such robin aggression, but then I’ve never seen such a congregation of them before. I wonder where they are headed. Surely not back north yet?

The next morning as I finish up this letter, the wind is even warmer and the robins are gone—the yard is quiet and still, the snow shrunk to a few small spots in the shelter of trees and shrubs. I look around and finally see one last robin high in a tree. I wonder if that one will follow its fellows, or take its chances here until winter visits again.

Sing in Beauty; Roam in Peace; Blessed Be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She is interested in the many visitations to her back yard and wonders where the travelers come from, and where they are going. She wishes them well on their journey

1 comment:

  1. Mary, the robins are still here, too. I saw some sitting in a tree eating fruits near my feeder. Today I saw a flock of them in the grass. I read that they'll stay north until they think they need to leave, then go a little farther south. Maybe these robins know something we don't. (Like we're done with the snow?--wishful thinking!)