Bereft in Winter



Silence and darkness grow apace,
broken only by the crack of a hunter’s gun in the woods.
Songbirds abandon us so gradually that,
until the day when we hear no birdsong at all but the scolding of the jay,
we haven’t fully realized that we are bereft — as after a death.
Even the sun has gone off somewhere…
Now we all come in, having put the garden to bed,
and we wait for winter to pull a chilly sheet over its head.  

~Jane Kenyon from “Good-by and Keep Cold”


Every day now we hear hunters firing in the woods and the wetlands around our farm, most likely aiming for the few ducks that have stayed in the marshes through the winter, or possibly a Canadian goose or a deer to bring home for the freezer.   The usual day-long symphony of birdsong of the rest of the year is replaced by shotguns popping, hawks and eagle screams and chittering, the occasional dog barking, with the bluejays and squirrels arguing over the last of the filbert nuts.

In the clear cold evenings, when coyotes aren’t howling in the moonlight, the owls hoot to each other across the fields from one patch of woods to another, their gentle resonant conversation echoing back and forth.    The horses confined to their stalls in the barns snort and blow as they bury their noses in flakes of summer-bound hay.

Last weekend I was startled by the cacophony of a starling murmuration or “rumble”, hundreds rising and falling together in mass over the farm, landing brashly in our treetops and bleaching the ground beneath with their droppings, shattering the silence for an hour before moving on to another piece of real estate.  Our farm was quiet once again.

The chilly silence of the darkened days is now interrupted by gunfire percussion, no melody at all.  There are no morning birdsong arias,  leaving me bereft of their blending musical tapestry that in a few short months will wake me at 4 AM. There is no peeper orchestra from the swamps in the evenings, their symphonies rising and falling on the breeze.

It is too too quiet and I’m left bereft, hungry for a song, any song. I listen intently for the familiar early morning and evening serenades returning.

It’s not long now.



March’s Cacophonous Marsh

photo by Kate Steensma
photo by Kate Steensma

Poets who know no better rhapsodize about the peace of nature, but a well-populated marsh is a cacophony.~Bern Keating

To open the month of March, a warm southerly wind swept in overnight with heavy rain drenching fields and lowlands.   The evening sounds were nothing more than constant dripping and trickling as downspouts unloaded and the hillsides drained.

Tonight, the peepers have awakened, brought out of the mire by tepid temperatures and vernal stirrings.  Their twilight symphony of love and territory has begun, soft and surging,  welcome and reassuring.

There’s a spring a-comin’, the peepers proclaim.  No one can prefer the silence of the countryside when such a song can be heard right out the back door.  Nothing can be sweeter.

Beneath the Bedroom Window


Rain soaked grass springs vibrant
Spongy sop underfoot
Deluged backyard turned marsh
Over night

A new voice outside
My bedroom window
Insistent rhythmic song of desire
Goes unanswered

I lie drowsing, grateful
For love that envelopes
Without bogged or swampy

Sated I ponder
The lonely peeper’s voice-
And sing a response of
Passion saturated.