Fall has been glorious in all its rich, colorful splendor, but now November is about to be escorted out by our first winter storm. The skies are cloudy and grey and cast their colors on the water as the first few snowflakes start to wander in the breeze. It seems it should be a cold and sad scene but it is not. It is beautiful in its own special way.
I gaze out at the wintry scene and it seems as though time has stopped. I picture the frigid water knowing it will soon be under the ice, moving in desperate slow motion searching for an opportunity to break through the cold surface and reach for the sun. Even though I am aware that nature’s winter dramas are constantly in action, nothing moves outside and I find myself sitting perfectly still in my warm kitchen with my coffee cup raised halfway to my lips.
Suddenly, the spell is broken. The bare branches that frame our view of the icy lake begin to sway ever so slowly as the earth exhales, the sky releasing one gentle breathe after another. I find that I also have been holding my breath as my coffee cup continues its journey to deliver its steaming brew. The bird feeders are now teeming with feathery life. As I watch the birds in all sizes and colors, I think of little flying spies trying to come in from the cold, each one on their own secret mission of survival.
I wait for my coffee companion to arrive, and as usual, she arrives with a red and brown flourish. She lands gracefully on the cold deck railing.
There she is, Mrs. Cardinal. Once again, I wonder about her story. I heard Cardinals mate for life, yet my little friend is alone. I wonder where her mate is. Is she a widow? Is she a single mom? Does she have little mouths to feed? Are they cuddling in their nest waiting for her as she scours the countryside looking for food or is she an “empty nester?” These thoughts wander around in my mind even though I know this is not nesting season. Imagination has no boundaries.
As I watch totally mesmerized, I mull over what I know about Cardinals. Some of the sources I found say Cardinals indeed do mate for life; however, their life span is not much more than a year. I am saddened to realize the friend that has been visiting me for the past two years has actually been two individual ladies. I also realize there will be a new one next spring. I imagine my current friend has outlived her mate and is not only in the winter of the four seasons; she is in the winter of her life. As she spreads her wings and flies away, I bid her adieu.