The woods are cold. My breath is fog. It’s a good time of year in here. Trees are bare, so you can see into them.

I notice the cold birds. Titmice. Crows, Blue Jays, three kinds of woodpeckers, two kinds of nuthatches.

Winter goldfinches. Pale Canadian Robins who come down for the winter. Juncos. House Finches although they don’t live in houses.

From a distance a coyote watches with a steady gaze. I’m meat on the hoof, if he could figure out how to get it.

So he watches me as I watch birds.

I rarely see the rarities that I hear about on the internet. Snowy Owls and insane hummingbirds that didn’t migrate.

I’m thinking this…then I’m on my back.

I’d been walking. Now I’m looking at the sky. I remember no fall. I heard an “oof,” and figure it came from me.

Turns out there was ice under the snow. The moment when my boots slipped was so quick, it didn’t register.

Bam. I was on my back.

If I’d fallen onto one of the pointed branches that are sticking out of the dead trees all over the ground, I’d have been punctured.

The woods wouldn’t have cared. Like I said, they’re cold.

Glad nobody saw the fall. Kind of embarrassing.

Then I think: the coyote saw. Probably raised an eyebrow and licked his lips. I got up. Maybe another day, he’ll get lucky.

Meanwhile, I kept walking. Saw the same cold birds I’d been seeing. Nothing rare or unusual. Maybe like the coyote, on another day I’ll get lucky.

7 Responses to “Cold”

  1. Dan says:

    Sorry about this, but you put me in the mood…

    17 Degrees
    I am driving up US 61 north of Reids Landing, Mn. just south of Lake Pepin on the Great Mississippi River where it narrows to a torrent and is met by the Chippewa. I begin to see eagles floating through the trees and am nearing where the lake narrows into a river again.
    The overlook is empty so I pull off and get out. A February north wind stings and bits of icy snow add to the hurt on my cheeks and forehead. This is forgotten and replaced with the sight of nearly a hundred eagles soaring, perching, lounging, feeding, playing.
    I walk to the short wall and behold the grey vista far below. The mighty river is open below the lake and the trees on the far shore in the Chippewa delta are riddled with white specks that are eagle heads. Many large dark bodies dot the ice shelves on the lake side and shorlines. But there are dark flecks on the water with tiny glimmers of white.
    Climbing over the wall I descend the nearly vertical slope of brush, vines, and broken rock to the waters edge nearly 100′ below. Shapes emerge from the shoreline below and glide toward the swift main river. They are common mergansers. The drake painted in sharp relief and the hen in her dead grass disguise. I settle on a rock near the water and gaze into the dim, bleak winter river scene before me.
    The dark flecks that I saw from above emerge into bufflhead, golden eyes, scaup, and coots. Pods of them bounce on the waves and are happy to be there. Some eagles flip and play with their little bird twittering reaching nearly across the broad river.
    It occurs to me that I should be aware of the signs of hypothermia. Not dressed for this and I’ve been there before. Don’t know how long I have been here. As I move back up the slope a nuthatch appears on a vine at eye level and we are both startled. A chickadee chick-chick-a-dees at me from a nearby bush.
    Finally topping the wall and back in my truck with the heater on the pain of returning circulation just gives me a smile. This fix will last a while.

  2. Bill says:

    I saw that the last three posts have five comments each. Thinking there might be something mystical involved, I wanted to be a part of it.

    Oops. Now it’s six.

  3. M. Spector says:

    Your last blog was Zen-like in its intensity, density, economy and brevity. The opening line immediately evoked Frost’s “Stopping by Woods On A Snowy Evening. “The woods are lovely, dark and deep…But I have promises to keep…And miles to go before I sleep.”
    To fall suddenly, unexpectedly, and perhaps with injury or even fatally, is a brutal reminder that the universe is capricious and random.

  4. Marc D. says:

    This was like extended haiku.

  5. Rob L. says:

    Wow again. It would be fun, just once, to have this continue…to follow the TFBW home and see what happens next. In the same halting sentences, each paragraph a sighting in its own right, like a scarlety-black streak across a barren sky.

  6. Peg Callihan says:

    Neat. Such writing! I felt cold and lucky to see a coyote just from reading it.

  7. norm schaefer says:

    Mike- See any circling buzzards overhead?