Monday, January 23, 2012

Almanac For Moderns: Rejoicing In The Noon Mercy

[More information on our Almanac For Moderns project and the work of Donald Culross Peattie can be found here.]

January Twenty-First

I wonder how much of fatality has come to the birds in the past week that I have been house-bound, while storm after storm swept the fields and woods, with alternate thaws followed cruelly by sleet. The papers tell of airplanes brought down with their fuselage ice-incrusted. It is not the cold that kills the birds, and somewhere, somehow, they always manage to find forage; it is winter rains that ground them too. For the titmouse that I come on stone dead in the woods, how many more small winged creatures are lying for the hawks and weasels to find, in the hills and on the fields!

Yet today, when I trudge abroad, just breaking through the stubborn crust at each tiring step, I hear the brave whistling and clinking notes of many little birds rejoicing in the noon mercy - though the mercury is below zero. I turn this way and that, trying to see them, but wherever I look the intolerable glare of the crusted snow, of the trees glittering in the silver mail, parries my sight like a cutting sword I cannot look into the eye of this ice-armored day; I can only bow my head and listen attentively, to the small indomitable voices of tree sparrows, white-throats and chickadees, ringing as bright and delicate as frost crystals become audible on the tingling air.