"He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports
almost deserted, And snow disfigured
the public statues; The mercury sank in
the mouth of the dying day. What instruments
we have agree The day of his death was a
dark cold day.
Far from his illness The wolves ran on through
the evergreen forests, The peasant river was
untempted by the fashionable quays; By
mourning tongues The death of the poet
was kept from his poems"
from In Memory of W. B. Yeats
W. H. Auden
Today as we took our long suffering dogs for their
walk I noticed bird calls from the spruce in front of
the house. Normally I post pictures of birds in the
spruce taken from our front window so I was happy
I had taken my camera with the chance at something
different. Upon seeing this was a mixed flock
feeding at the top of the spruce I began snapping
wildly and Helen graciously left me to it while
she was pulled around the block by two small white
dogs. On November 24th I posted shots of a flock
of Red Crossbills and Red Breasted Nuthatches. This
flock contained Red Crossbills, White Winged
Crossbills and Red Polls. It was great to see them
right outside our door, now I can think of them perched
there sheltering from the cold night air while I lay in bed.
( even if they are actually miles away )
The photos are not quite as good as the Nov
photos, our spruce is taller and today was overcast.
Lately I have been somewhat depressed by
the news I read and despite Robert Burton's
warning about melancholy it is hard not to get
caught up in it. While many people still seem
to be in the rather childish stage of blaming
everyone but themselves for the broken vase,
indeed they are still arguing about whether the vase
( planet ) is broken, it is obvious that things are
changing. In Canada we have always taken a perverse
pride in our cold weather. Compared to the disasters taking
place around the world getting warmer is good. Except
that new pests will move north. Melting permafrost will
disrupt communities and change the landscape. Insects that
normally freeze will over winter, increase and spread.
Climate changes and many animals will not adapt. A warmer
north will open the Northwest passage to shipping and the tundra
to increasing resource exploitation. I see no signs that we will
distribute this new wealth more equitably or extract it more
responsibly than we did in the past. We will simply repeat the
excesses and mistakes of the past, just as Auden said "For
poetry makes nothing happen" ( In Memory of W. B. Yeats )
we seem to learn nothing from the lessons of history.
Possibly it is a universal that everyone, as they age sees
the world they knew, believed existed, (even if only in a
somewhat romanticized world view), chance into something
they barely recognize. To be realistic in many cases these
changes are good. But still there are so many other things
that are lost along the way.
Perhaps that is why I can still cherish the poems that mark
the changing seasons by the calls of geese passing overhead
a sound I can still hear today. And perhaps that is why tonight
I will pretend that I can hear the drowsy cheep and muted rustling
of the birds sheltering against the cold in the spruce at my front door.
"Then one day I was walking along Tinker Creek thinking
of nothing at all and I saw the tree with lights in it. I saw
the backyard cedar where. the mourning doves roost
charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame.
I stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that was
wholly fire, utterly focused and utterly dreamed.
It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen,
knocked breathless by a powerful glance"
from Pilgrim at Tinkers Creek