Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Nullity of Blackbirds

March is ready to come onstage: the lion is pacing in the wings.
He's as restless as a willow in a windstorm. He's as jumpy as a puppet on a string...

Exhibition baseball games start on Saturday.

Red-winged blackbirds may have already arrived! I must go and listen for their ringing telephone calls out in the marshes fringing Rock Meadow in Belmont. It's appropriate now to be thinking of spring. The snow no longer inspires dread. The forecasts have changed to rain, snow's mortal enemy.

So I am back at Rock Meadow, my old stomping ground. I put on my boots. The meadow is still deep in snow, despite the intermittent thaws, but it is uneasy, late winter snow. It's hard on one path, soft on another, spiculed with ice crystals or yielding to islands of matted grass. It carries the impressions of ski tracks, boot holes, boot treads, and pawprints or hoofprints. It's a codex? incunabulum? pentimento? Pictorial history, anyway, of the whole season. Just walking on it or in it means something: how enmeshed I still am, or above the fray; how yielding it is, or obdurate.

I pause to listen. No ringing telephones in the distance.

Here's what I do see. A fragment of bark in the snow with a round pale green splotch of lichen. I pick it up, nudge up my glasses for a nearsighted close-up. It has tiny tubes here and there, like Shrek's horns, and in other places it's pocked with tiny pits. Its color is that celadon green that always brings to mind my mom's pale metallic green '64 Impala, which I learned to drive in and went on yearnful dates in and listened to "Lightning Strikes" and "Woolly Bully" and the Beach Boys in.

A little further along, I see an oriole's nest, a beautiful thing tied to the end of a low-hanging branch of a tall tree. It's a weaving of natural and human-made materials, grass and colored string and something fluffy or plastic by something woody and straw-y. It survived some fearsome winds and with luck it will be home to another generation of orioles in a few months. As close to now as Thanksgiving is, the other way.

Blue shadows on the snow. A small flock of mourning doves surprised by me from the ground into the trees with an alarming wing-whistling flurry. Soft brown, lissome birds with that melancholy coo or so it sounds. But melancholy only if compared to what?

And from the wooden footbridge over Beaver Brook, the cold water, color of tea, coursing by, and trunks of shoreside bushes wearing necklaces of ice, glassy ledges showing dark shadowy blobs of water caught inside the ice and wriggling through.

But no redwings.

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