Well an afternoon like the one you see in the picture is a little bit like unwrapping a really fabulous present. We have warnings of harsh weather yet to come, somewhere way over there beyond that western horizon, beneath the setting sun, but the warm and brilliance are like a mini vacation, the kind where you don’t dream of being anywhere else.
Somewhere below the surface of the snow there is network of life, voles, moles, mice and rabbits. Well, the rabbits are under the deck and the mice are somewhere in our ceiling. I found a field mouse frozen in one of my plastic garden storage containers that I’d left outside. The evidence surrounding him suggested he was cold and trying to build a shelter before freezing to death. He had gathered a large leaf from the Korean ninebark and then a bit of dried brown grass, but the task was too overwhelming and when I found him he had his little paws clutched to his chest. The sight of something so small and vulnerable can break your heart in a second.
There is so little difference in what the bunnies under the bird feeder or the birds at the bird feeder for that matter, or the mice want from what it is we all want — basic food and shelter, sustenance, and from what I can tell, company. For some strange reason we have parked ourselves at the top of the “foodchain,” and have never looked back. It is not easy, at all, to watch the circle of life, as a participant, but participate we must with our fauna-colleagues. To stay safely and dispassionately on the sidelines might work for a while, but at some point you may surprise yourself by recognizing the sad shape of defeat against a harsh winter, the content demeanor of a well-fed stomach, or the exuberance and surprise expressed by a leaping deer, or the gait of happy dogs on a warm spring day.