Monday, January 17, 2011

Winter Distractions

As we enter the longest part of winter, I'm struck by how much expectations change at this time of year. Living in a northern border state means that the birds get pretty scarce during the winter months. A walk around the park at this time of year nets about 3 to 5 different species on a good day, a total that would have been counted a pretty lousy outing mere months ago. Some days I see nothing but American Crows. But any time I see more than 2 or 3 species on my lunchtime walks this time of year feels like a pretty good day. Bonus points when a chickadee sings and sings its cheerful song while flitting around my head:

Some people may deal with the depths of winter by simply staying inside and waiting for spring to come. I admit there's an appeal to that, but ever since reading "A Sand County Almanac", I've really appreciated Aldo Leopold's approach to January:

The months of the year, from January up to June, are a geometric progression in the abundance of distractions. In January one may follow a skunk track, or search for bands on the chickadees, or see what young pines the deer have browsed, or what muskrat houses the mink have dug, with only an occasional and mild digression into other doings. January observation can be almost as simple and peaceful as snow, and almost as continuous as cold. There is time not only to see who has done what, but to speculate why.

In my case, I get to sit and enjoy a sweet chickadee's song under a snow-covered pine tree without being distracted by all of the other things I could be seeing. In many ways, that's a pretty rare treat.

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