The squat gray chimney of the gray house emits a stream of smoke which, as though crushed by the bright air, drifts close to the ground and swirls among the lower branches of the pines whose bristling clumps of needles the afternoon sun has flamed with gold and red. Small birds alight on the bare mulberry branches, linger a while and fly away with high pitched chirps. Another nearby stand of pine and oak echoes with the songs of larger birds, a cacophony of chirps, warbles and screeches. A jogger wearing red shorts and a dark green sweatshirt passes the house, his shoes padding the pavement softly as he vanishes behind a hedge. My windows are open, admitting the first winter air to carry a hint of spring. The migrating waterfowl I heard last night were accurate predictors. The smoke curling from that chimney seems almost like an error, an old habit refusing to die, or the evidence of someone's anticipatory nostalgia for the season soon to depart.