Well it hasn’t been a harsh winter; I can tell by the number of times we have been able to venture through the meadow to the farmer’s fields in the back. Recent winters have meant double layers of ice, and snow in between, like a large cake made of a rock hard icing, a combination which makes our forays to the back nearly impossible.
Today is one of the coldest, minus thirty last night and only minus twenty this afternoon, but no wind, no clouds, full sun that felt warm at times, on my cheeks. It was silent and holy out back. Both I and my dog stood stock still, listening to the nothingness and wondering if we would look back at the photograph of this precious moment, once we were far away in time and space, in heaven perhaps, or nowhere. You cannot help but wonder on a day like this.
A few weeks ago I found a dead rabbit by the house, feet away from the deck under which they hide, or live, or hibernate. Did he freeze to death, feet from his den, I wondered. he only had a small bit of blood coming from one eye. Since last year, and another unfortunate rabbit and a squirrel as well, who have found themselves whole and dead in the yard, I have come to the conclusion that perhaps a bird of prey had dropped the prizes and was unable to retrieve it.
The other night the dog was barking at the distant whoo, whoo of an owl. Later in the night, actually early in the morning he started up again as had the owl. I turned on the white noise making machine I keep in the bedroom for such moments; the sound of waves crashing dulls the noise of coyotes, owls, other dogs barking. I looked out the living room window and in the pale light of a crescent moon I could make out a large mass atop one of the junipers. He hooted again, periodically, and evenly timed I imagined, between hoots. Suddenly the mass grew, dropped from the tree top and curved in a grand fashion towards me, before turning and heading west. A mixture of surprise and fear swept over me, as did the satisfaction of almost seeing an owl.
What I noticed in the seconds following the departure, however, was the shape of the large juniper outside the window, upon which the owl had perched. The mid branches seemed much longer than the others, both above and below, and in the dimness had the look and feel of huge arms reaching out to embrace the house. It was with this image, being embraced, that I returned to bed. Once again I felt the comfort and security that this land offered, there to be acknowledged and noticed if one took the time.