Have you ever held a bird in your hand? A wild one?
This time of year, when food is scarce, hold bird seed on the flat plam of your glove. Stand by a bird feeder, somewhere sheltered, where birds already know to come for food.
I stood on the small back patio behind my grandmother’s house. She kept feeders there — thistle seed for the finches, black sunflower seed, cracked corn, suet for woodpeckers. I stood still enough, long enough, that a titmouse lighted down on my thumb. Titmice have grey crests, creamy undersides with a brush of yellow, dark eyes. I might have been ten years old then; I remember the prickle of its feet.
They will only come so close, I think, at the end of winter, when hunger outweighs shyness.
What else can you do only at this time of year? Set aside for now the dream gardens and seed catalogs, the pole beans and snap dragons you want to plant by the shed wall when the frost is gone. And set aside the zany hand-knitted socks.
Make it harder. Not just anything to do with the weather — sledding over ramps and speed bumps of snow and sucking icicles. And not just anything to balance the cold — wood fires and rich stews and hot drinks laced with cream. What can I do right now?
February is the month of amethyst, Aquarius, Abraham Lincoln (a month of alphas and visionaries) and the month of Mardi Gras. Early March brings novelists and poets and the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers, blues and jazz and comedy. They are both good months for talks and books and free admission to museums — to catch a guitarist at a coffee shop or visit artists in their studios. It’s a good month to watch the stars or grab a Guinness and a comedy open mic at the local bar.
I am holding on to the winter weather, because it gives me time to think. The quiet, the open sky and the concentration of snow shoveling have become a rhythm. This time of year, when the trees are bare, I can look out across the valley from my driveway. I can see clear to the far ridge.
In another two weeks, sap will be rising. Sugar houses will fire up their boilers. Skunk cabbage will poke out of half-thawed marshes, and daylight savings will hit. The evenings will lighten. In three weeks we will be squelching into the beginning of spring. I’m glad to wait.
This post is adapted from a By the Way column that first appeared in Berkshires Week magazine in my time as editor there. The photo at the top shows a male titmouse singing and comes courtesy of Basar.