Feeding time in one of our paddocks, early March. Standing and watching animals eat is a highlight of our day, and not because our days are ever boring! But watching animals eat, in all of their various ways, is one of the perks of living with them. I find these views endlessly fascinating and peaceful. Sometimes it is difficult to pull myself away to tend to the work that still needs to be done. But then I remind myself - that's what the work is all about! Getting to participate in the lives on the farm...
When I came in from the 6:30am lamb check, I made an espresso and settled down for my cozy everyday meditation on the couch. I lit my candle, took my deep, centering breath --
and immediately heard a frantic scratching in the unlit woodstove to my left. I could see a tiny white body battering itself against the front panel glass. Darn. Assuming the trapped animal was a mouse, I was filled with dread at the prospect of engineering a capture and felt my precious morning me-time slipping away. But then I realized the prisoner was a bird. Birds I like. Birds I can handle. Literally, I can handle a bird. Especially a bird in a small box. I opened the side door of the stove and found a chickadee, head cocked sideways, looking at me. We contemplated each other for a moment. Then the bird ricocheted around the sooty oven and pause in a corner. I grabbed, one handed, and triumphantly snatched the bird up. Success! But I was unprepared for how shockingly minute the body was - I am quite used to chickens! - and the panicked chickadee deftly twisted out of my grasp.
Double darn. Now I was in exactly the situation I'd dreaded - a pooping wild animal loose in the house and a busy day with the daunting and likely time-consuming task of catching it. The chickadee flew into one windowpane and wall after another and finally alighted on a sill in the mudroom. Abandoning the idea of personally evicting the intruder, I looked around for options and determined I could open the two windows in the house that were missing outside screens. I reasoned that the bird would eventually land on one of those sills and hop accidentally into freedom.
As soon as I raised the first window, I had cause to gasp and thank my little companion. For at once the house was filled with riotous birdsong. What joy expressed in rapturous chatter! Such cheerful banter, melodic cheeps and piercing calls! I heard a rare black pheasant crowing on the hill and bluejays scolding from the plum grove and the sharp chirps of cardinals at the feeder. I heard the whole daybreak celebration symphony that is a hallmark of early spring here in the countryside. I heard it because my windows were open for the first time since September.
My daily winter habit is to meet the sun each morning at its most wondrously colorful expression as it rises above the wooded hill to my east. But I had shut out all of the glorious musical accompaniment against the cold. I smiled, sighed, breathed and pondered the gift: today a diminutive messenger had flown down my long narrow chimney to deliver the news that spring had sprung and the time had some to start participating in the dawn chorus.
Alas, my rosy epiphany was terminated by the appearance of Cora's quizzical face in one of the open windows. Cora is a rambunctious marmalade barn kitten, one of ten I'd raised through the winter to oppose the grain-eating rats, and the fiercest hunter of them lot. I sprung out of my reverie to find the still-at-large chickadee and shepherd it out the opposite window from the one through which Cora was now climbing. Wholly beyond my control, the panicked bird ran right into the glass pane above the cat, who deftly nabbed it with minimal effort.
The silent bird lay pinned beneath daintily crossed kitten paws. I felt dread gather in my stomach for the second time in this eventful morning. But the kitten hadn't yet bitten and the bird laid still enough to avoid injury. So I slowly bent down to the oddly quiet pair and carefully enfolded the tiny still chickadee with two hands this time. I held my breath and gently tossed the bird out the open window toward the now-risen sun and
away my little blessing flew, with a strong cry, into the brightening day.
I watched the fluttering wings disappear, then closed the windows save for one small crack, just enough to allow the sounds of the birds into the living room where I sit and pray. I will surely be opening that crack at dawn for the rest of the spring. And perhaps somewhere in my morning meditations I will find the grace to accept all such pesky interruptions in my days as invitations to a greater good. Amen.
This muddy gap between seasons certainly holds a lot of hope. Seeds are germinating in flats in the greenhouse, lambs are born in the fields, goat kids frolic in the barn, plans get placed on paper. We don't know what the summer will hold for us as we look out on the last quiet days of winter, but we know it's likely to taste pretty darn good.