Yesterday morning, when I went out to feed the birds, it was snowing with big white flakes. It didn't amount to much, just a little dusting on the frost covered ground. It's been very cold at night and not much warmer during the day, but today the sun is shining, which warms things up just enough to melt the snow.
I would love to stay snuggled up in bed, but the birds depend on me and I feel too guilty lying under my warm quilts while they search for water and food. The bird bath has been frozen solid and I must take hot water out with me and melt the ice so they can have a drink.
But they reward me with their happy, chirpy presence.
So I brave the icy cold every morning, warmed by a steaming cup of coffee, while the dogs and I make our rounds. This is a daily routine and the dogs look forward to our little morning walk. I used to walk to the top of the driveway to get the newspaper, but we have some angry neighbor dogs who greet us with nasty snarls on the other side of the gate. My ever protective and loyal companions, Whitey and Champ, do not like them and they fight between the wire. Not a pleasant way to start the day. (And yes, I have complained once or twice, but to no avail.)
So I wait for my morning paper until The Mr. comes through the gate in the evening, picking it up along his way.
Winter is a somber affair here in the foothills, full of mist and rain and occasional freezes. We live in a temperate rain forest, and the weather doesn't get too severe, although nature is fickle and can turn on you when you least expect it, so we keep a steady supply of candles and supplies for those times when she throws a temper tantrum and knocks out our electricity. So far this winter has been relatively calm with only a couple of wind storms of 50 mph winds and some light snow. We lost a very large double headed Hemlock tree during one of those storms, and it's now lying sideways across our woodlands going up the driveway, creating a sad view of a once magnificent tree. The Mr. is busy and can't attend to it now, but I hate when he uses the chainsaw anyway, so I think I might hire someone to cut it up soon.
Everything is twiggy and bare, but the evergreens stand out deeply green and I actually think this time of year is the most beautiful of all. With the leaves fallen and the underbrush died down, hidden places once again come into view, giving an entirely new perspective of the surrounding forest. It is quiet and still with only faint twitters and rustlings, unlike the cacophony of spring.
I can hear myself think.
But when the wind blows, the rushing is like a freight train, or a surging rapids, rising and falling in great waves of sound as it catches in the limbs of the stoically majestic evergreens in the surrounding forest and hills.
My dog, Whitey is terrified of this and I must soothe him and keep him next to me as he pants and his eyes roll around in his head. He usually sleeps in the kitchen with Champ on their soft comfy beds, but on windy nights he clings to me and I arrange him beside me on the floor by my bed.
Both of my dogs were rescued and I have no idea of their history and can only guess, but I know for sure it was a traumatizing start to their brief little lives and we are endlessly patient and kind.
As I come inside I can see my hummingbird friend roosting on top of the near empty feeder. I have at least two of these that have stayed for the winter, and not because I feed them, as I only just started after seeing them hover over red berries in my pots on the railings, searching for nectar. Last year I noticed one coming around and thought it odd, but have since found out that this variety, 'Anna' stays year round. They are larger than the tiny Rufous hummers we have in the summer, and will perch in the tree branches chirping in between sips and chasing off intruders. Last night I forgot to take the feeders in to keep them from freezing and woke up in the middle of the night, remembering. Of course I went outside in the frigid night air and retrieved them, which kept me from staying in bed this morning because I had to put them back out.
I can see him from my glass doors, as you can see the reflected light of the lamps that I keep burning on these dark winter days. This tiny winged being, so dependent on me. I think that they sleep inside one of the birdhouses my son built and hung in the trees, abandoned this time of year.
But inside I am guiltily cozy, with a fire always burning and my workbasket full.
This morning the sun is shining brightly and Mt. Rainier is in view after being hidden by clouds for days upon end.
The cats spend their days sleeping in comfort, refusing to go out for more than a quick dip into the cold mountain air. Yesterday I let them out onto the deck with me as I refilled the hummingbird feeder and up above us a flock of vultures soared searching for food. I don't see them often and at first I only saw one and thought it was a Golden Eagle- so large was it's wingspan- as it dipped low right before me scanning the ground. But soon it was joined by another and another and then I looked straight up and saw several more and knew what they were, circling around. It sent chills down my spine, but they quickly moved on which greatly relieved me, as their presence sometimes signals cougar activity.
The bright winter sun, so low in the sky, has encouraged my houseplants to bloom. My bright pink Kalanchoe, a gift from my daughter exactly one year ago to celebrate my being chosen to write for the newspaper.
But my last column was published on New Year's Eve and now I am free of obligation once more, except to myself and the ones that I love, and the little birds that depend on me.
Now I have time to fill up my workbasket once more and put to good use these cold winter days that keep me inside.
I am sewing together a gift for my home, a soft comfy pillow fashioned from bits of laces and vintage crochet.
Feathering my own cozy nest.
How are you passing the time on these short winter days and long winter nights?
Do you have a favorite past time?