From this morning’s ocean there rose sea smoke, the steam that’s created because the air temperature is colder than the water. The first snowfall came in the form of morning-to- early afternoon flurries, predicted to be light, but leaving the ground white and the road and all paved surfaces surprisingly slippery. I’m sure many were happy to welcome this pre-Christmas promise if things to come.
I’d taken down the bird feeders over the summer; there are sound reasons to do so. There may be more sound reasons not to supplementally feed the birds at all but the small birds offer great comfort at this time of year. The sparrow flock that seemed to have done well increasing their numbers over their breeding season went elsewhere when the food sources here were depleted. The crow family, now up to six or maybe seven, have taken to coming by in the morning checking for possible treats. They have been in luck as I’d found peanuts in a large bag, the human non-salted kind in the shell but soon they will have to find their treats elsewhere as the price of peanuts, indeed all bird feed, has increased exponentially. That has not stopped expensive bags of feed flying off the shelves of suppliers however, proving that the pandemic has not affected all equally in terms of economics. Perhaps the spring-summer sparrow residents found a well supplied backyard which would insure their winter survival.
The day of the snowfall a lone mourning dove, feathers fluffed for warmth against a cold and biting wind, was sitting forlornly on the porch railing. Of course by the time I got a full feeder out there the dove had gone, believing perhaps that this was no longer a place to find food. I may have erred in delaying so long in putting out seed. In the last day or so a blue jay came by and a couple of other small birds whose coloring could not be clearly seen in the gloomy north light on the porch. I think it may be a long wait before other species find what I have put out for them. The open exposure here combined with the proximity of the water means a rough fly in on most winter days. Fierce wind is nearly a constant in this, my least favorite month in my least favorite season. I’ve come to believe I can feel the wind blowing through this house which was built just prior to the late 70’s oil crisis that precipitated increased inches of added insulation as a cost effective way to retain heat. This is my reconstruction of something that may not be true at all. What I know is daily I dress in multiple layers of wool and fleece but the cold reaches my bones anyway. This is a deceptively fierce place, where summer’s fried seafood consumed above the rocks is a happy tradition and memory for the throngs of summer visitors.
I believe I’ve said this before: the ocean is wilderness. There may be those making their livelihoods from what comes from the sea in the form of hard and hearty locals lobstering or fishing or those working on huge container ships I see on the horizon waiting to head into port to deliver their steel cases full of goods they are transporting, or those working on the oil tankers that always seem to me to be threatening for precarious shores. The sailboats and pleasure boats are dry docked or have gone elsewhere. Winter days means rough water, too rough to be out there for any reason other than absolute necessity and mostly not out there at all.
I sit on the edge of this slim and marginal band along rock and water that shows it’s darker side for so many long months of cold. There is always beauty of course but the other side of it’s reality is more than a little inhospitable for both little birds and humans .