Winter Quarters

November 24, 2010

Ice on the pond this morning. In the small pond nearer the house, the ice shaped into geometric panels, angled and cleaned. The goldfish float in streaks of orange under the ice by the cypress tree. I urge them to dive deeply, slow those heart rates, stay warm. Earless, they do not heed my advice. This ice is irregular, tiny ripples caught and frozen in time and space. Then there is the puckered ice – such fun – that surrounds each stub of cattail. This looks dancers, like swirling skirts from above, drawn into tiny waists and billowing out with spin and speed.

My Gawd, It’s Cold.

I see Clarence rustle away from the sweet potato – now decently gnawed – and disappear behind the section of old wooden fence that is propped against the house. He is a flash of greyish brown, disappearing under leaves and mulch. And here I’d been thinking he and Francine had either moved or succumbed to a hawk, a snake, a raccoon – so many ways to be a part of that circle of life when you’re a mouse.

The fence is a piece of Richie, a bit of his house from Roselle. These panels move around the garden, providing a backdrop or shield for all sorts of things as the whim takes me.

Whimsy is good in a garden, don’t you think?

I go into the house, taking the day off to clean, cook (okay, mostly cook) and get ready for Thanksgiving tomorrow.

Tony notices it first. Ice pellets drizzling onto the pond, the patio, the garden. I head outside and hear it.

The good size pebbles, not hail, but tiny balls of ice, hiss like water beginning to simmer in a kettle, like fingertips on a countertop, bacon sizzling in a pan. They click and clatter on the ground, bouncing up and falling back in a shower of glitter. What looks like crushed glass blankets the yard, the patio, the berm, the soil. It is gathered into cups of leaves, as tiny single diamonds – an engagement ring, or as clusters of riches – a dowager’s fingers. It is scattered all over the bridge, shining bright and winking. It crunches under my feet.

This will be the end of the peas and brussel sprouts, I believe. The ice settles all over the bowls in the sprouts leaves, making them look positively festive, ringing in the winter holidays. The milkweed is black and shriveled, with no place for these tiny nuggets to nestle. They shimmer on the sedum, caught in the blooms.

They melt quickly when they  hit the grass.

The coneflowers are now a favorite of the birds, getting their seedheads ripped apart. The stems stand at attention, looking confused, put upon but nonetheless brave. The sweet autumn clematis is a wonder. It appears bathed in a blueish haze and then I realize that it’s the fuzz of the drying blossoms. That fuzz is a greyish blue color and covers the whole plant, just like the blooms did not long ago. It creates an almost eerie cast, something otherworldly. I hope the wrens are enjoying their home’s new decor – kind of like a new coat of paint.

I cannot capture the beauty of these grasses. They are organized chaos, amber and gold and burgundy and purple, smooth and rough, dangerous and safe. They are noisy and silent, majestic and homey. I can’t make a photograph that says “YES. THIS is what they are all about.” It is frustrating, maddening. I hate having limits in my mediums.

The weglias have given up all their leaves in a matter of days, it seems. I believe there were still leaves on Monday – now this hedge is bare sticks, pokey and brown and squared off.

I come around the corner and see Clarence skitter across the flagstone path, tail up like a bicycle flag. He stops in the tangle of leaves. I approach slowly, and he zips his way among the soggy mess of hosta and tucks behind the big ceramic vase I made in college (See? The garden is such a repository for all things), right under the dryer vent. I peek and see a tiny sheltered hole among the leaves and the lint.

Certainly not squirrel brains here. The warm air from the dryer (and let’s face it, I do an extraordinary amount of laundry – or will until Dominic leaves and takes his two-to-three-bathtowel-a-day habit with him) expels and is shielded by the ceramic wall of sorts, creating a little spa of moisture and heat. This spot here is perfect – egress from either side of the vase, cozy and toasty warm, near the bird feeder, lots of seed heads and lots of brush to shelter in while doing surveillance of the yard.

Like snow birds, Francine and Clarence have moved to a warmer climate.


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