Embrace it, endure it, or leave. Winter doesn’t offer many choices and for the better part of this past week the best option has been to endure, hunker down and hope for the best.
The sun shines brightly, through a lens of frigid arctic air, but the wind cuts like a razor and going out to do chores is, at best, a chore. Numbers on thermometers tell incomplete tales, unfeeling statements of fact, and over the years I have developed my own crude methodology to quantify cold. Completely unscientific and more than a bit subjective, it involves such things as the speed at which boogers freeze and the distance I can travel across the dooryard before I find myself doubled over and cussing. Based on those measurements, the cold this week qualifies as “pretty darn freakin’.”
It’s also darn freakin’ pretty.
After six days of hiding indoors, there’s an urge to go out, not so much to embrace the season as to defy it, so when the full moon comes up the armor goes on for a trek in the moonlight. Among popping trees and over thumping ice, coyotes howl and wind-blown snow sparkles like diamonds but after a couple of hours of that nonsense, there’s a serious urge to go in and embrace the stove.
The mixed flock of chickadees, nuthatches, and redpolls have been working the feeders through the cold. The seed they knock to the ground feeds mice and voles, which a pair of coyotes has discovered, but most other creatures in the neighborhood spent the week curled up in a hole, trying to stay warm, just like me.
Just like me, they’re also ready to get out again and this morning I saw a fox trotting down the road, looking ahead for a meal while also looking back, aware that it could just as easily become someone else’s meal. Everyone is hungry out there, after a deep snap like this, and the search for food goes on for as long as it takes. The fox risks death, taking what the coyotes consider theirs, and night creatures will work all day if that’s what it takes to survive.
With coffee in hand, I sat in my blind (which is cleverly disguised as a house) and watched a flying squirrel this morning, a rare treat. Both shy and nocturnal, I can count the flying squirrels I’ve seen on two fingers.
To the ground for a seed, to the tree to eat it, this flying squirrel spent an hour going back and forth. I have twenty shots that all look alike, so regular was its routine. Again and again, it sat still long enough for one picture before streaking away, returning five seconds later to the same place.
Foxes and flying squirrels take big risks to survive on days like this but I don’t have to and, as much as I like going out to take pictures of animals and frost, I have to admit that sometimes it’s just as nice to be on the inside, looking out.