March 1st, 2005



Thin clouds give the moon a halo, and scatter light to provide a pale backdrop for the bare, twiggy branches of the mulberry tree. Cold but gentle wind is making the pines whisper. There have been no birds tonight, no raccoons, no deer. There was an escaped dog. I heard its collar tags jingling as it explored the delicious world of trash night, passing up the street and back down, arousing all the fenced-in dogs to bark with envy. Other than that, the night was only moonlight and breezes. Even the frogs have remained silent in this late winter chill, and the dogs have all returned to sleep, or to whatever outdoor dogs do on cold nights. Deep blue will creep up the eastern sky momentarily. Good morning, March. I hope you are bringing me at least a few blustery days.


The first day of March did come close to bluster, lacking only a continuous and more rapid movement of the air. The chill and the scumbled gray sky of motile clouds was everything I could desire. I watched the camellia petals drop, and listened to the squawking crows as they flew shadowless from tree to tree. Then, a squirrel appeared. It headed up the telephone pole, its claws scrabbling with each quick dart, a few feet at a time, until it reached the first crossbar. I thought it might leap onto the cable and run to the next pole, as they sometimes do, but it stayed on the crossbar a long time, its tale curled into a backward "S" that was like a blurred reflection of its body, inexplicably rising above it in vertiginous reversal of expectation.

The squirrel darted from one end of the crossbar to the other and back, several times, pausing to take in the scene at each end. Then it scrambled up to the next crossbar, then the third, and finally to the top of the pole, from which it surveyed the landscape with apparent fascination. I couldn't imagine why the rodent climbed the dead pole, unless it might have been seeking to raid the caches of food placed in the cracks by the acorn woodpeckers, but it showed no interest in any of these, instead seeming intent only on enjoying the view. Despite the squirrel's lack of interest in their hidden troves, the acorn woodpeckers must have harbored the same suspicions as I, and, with sudden outburst of scolding chatter, one of them suddenly swooped at the furry beast where it perched atop the pole, and it began a quick descent, the bird circling and nattering after it all the way. Once the squirrel reached the ground, the woodpecker gave up the chase and perched in the spot from which it had dislodged the interloper. The squirrel gave a brief chuckle, as though enjoying the results of having played a practical joke on the birds, then scampered across the street and out of view. The punked bird departed in silence, and soft rain began to speckle the gray pavement as the light dimmed with the onset of evening.