The end of February was so bleak, brown, eaten down,
beaten down, laid over, pressed flat, no apparent life
loitering anywhere, even in the spaces we have left for it.
Dirty November snowdrifts, glaciated, still lingering in windbreak shadows,
the lone coyote crossing the still frozen lake searching for boney turd or duck carcass.
Blackbirds, Finches, Sparrows and Juncos resorting to feeders and pilfered hen-scratch.
Then comes word of a greasy pandemic slowly back-stroking in our direction.
Gratefully, the five-syllable hoot of nested Great Horned Owls brings us
from a moment of depression.
The ever-lasting creation has its own agenda, its own direction in mind
as March, calendar of cold wind and rain-snow mixes and blessed
intermittent sun — finally begins to remind us.
It starts as some celestial commander gives the order.
“All geese must fall out of formation and pair up –- huuup!” Hearing this,
a forgivably heartless Bald Eagle heads for a tree-top perch
looking for cripples lacking the protective cover of flock or mate.
A few days in, come squadrons of acrobatic Teal
on green, blue and cinnamon wings — such daring stealthy fighter pilots.
Soon thereafter, even the hard of hearing note the unmistakable deep, rasping, ancient
call of Sandhill Cranes, heard before they are seen, one strains to see
the long high formations moving North,
sometimes circling elegantly to scout for feed, refuge, or like kind,
or perhaps just to slow dance, show off a little.
As they turn together, light plays off wings
that move in and out of sun’s reflection like some
docent’s dim then bright signal that it is time to be seated
–- the show continues.
Around day 10 this March, as ice thaws and Winter is asked to move over,
thousands of migrating waterfowl start piling into the reservoirs and wetlands.
Redheads, Pintails, Widgeons, Shovelers, Mallards, Golden Eye, Ring Necks,
Canvass Backs, Scaup, Coots and Buffleheads,
marshaled together, reoccupying, taking over, uniting a larger geography
with their ageless dominion.
A fence-line neighbor calls. He has discovered and refrigerated
a freshly killed Mink found at the edge of our wetlands where the
creek passes under the County road. Something we’ve not seen in 50 years here.
Just to know they are secretly alive is a special gift. March comes alive with promise.
We blow dry his beautiful pelt and take his picture.
February’s malaise is finally pushed over the edge with
the long-awaited arrival of Mountain Bluebirds,
each painted with an un-named blue belonging only to natures color chart.
Bright flocks move low across the open fields, leap frogging, ground troops
covering for one another. Please, just hold still a minute, so we can see you!
Blessedly, no two faces, days, or landscapes are ever quite alike. Even the same ones.
This March morning, our eastern view is a symphony of renewal and redemption:
Nimble iridescent Bluebirds, are ornaments scattered
among the stately stilted legs of Sandhill Cranes and the waddling black footed
gait of Canada Geese whose jealous neck jabbing is aggravated by
the large dusky brown presence of four Wild Turkeys, heads down,
— all of them foraging together, in the same hayfield!
gathering grubs, bugs, and undigested corn no longer hidden in
the cow paddies left by the 60 head of cattle we wintered on crop residue,
after my tandem harrows shattered and spread them last afternoon.
— How do they so quickly know what to do?
It this strange time, as we shelter in place. The big world
is beneath our feet, is still all around, keeps on flowing by,
brightens with the season, an ancient drama tempering our own.
George N. Wallace lives in Fort Collins.