by Alec McCarter  January 2002


When I awoke this morning, a dusting of snow had arrived during the night.  It has transformed the familiar green and colourful surroundings to a black and white, green and white paradise, best seen from the comfort of indoors.


The Hoheria has repelled the snowfall and remains tall, graceful and green.  The white pussy-willows of the stellata Magnolia are enhanced by a capping of snow, their grey branches appear darker.  The apple tree’s silhouette is grotesque while here and there, a few late Calendula strike orange notes above the white.  Long spikes of yellow Mahonia sparkle gold against the white encrusted jade-green leaves.  An errant Fennel, not usually visible against the dark earth, shows vividly its lacy form, bronze against the new background.  If the weather should get colder, it will be lost.  Nearby, two striking curly mallows grasp at a dusting of icing sugar.  Figs, having fallen to the patio, each bears a thick topping, round confections that, alas, are not edible except to hibernating slugs.


On the wall at the feeder, roofed by a slab of cedar to protect the grain below from the wet, hungry Juncoes, their black hoods relieved by bright yellow beaks, vie for grain with a Towhee.  He flirts his tail and flairs his wings, displaying vibrant colours, nervously jittering with every movement.  A single starling, his beak totally unfitted to breaking seed shells, nevertheless eagerly fills his belly with millet and crushed corn.  At least he has satisfied his hunger for the moment.


The cat that appears each morning, hoping to augment his breakfast, is absent today.  The weather is not too cold for him to be out of doors.  Perhaps he does not like the icy slush on his feet, or is afraid that his footprints will betray his secret lair below the feeder.  An untrained hunter, he has failed to catch so much as a feather – but he is a source of amusement to me – the watcher.


The pan of water, beside the feeder is frozen – a junco has just skated over the surface of the ice.  Will he know to ease his thirst with snow if the rising sun does not melt his drink soon?


Snow clouds fill the sky but here and there pale blue is seen above the white and there the clouds are turning pink.  The lawn is mottled with white.  Insulated from the warm earth below by the grass on which it sits, the snow will soon melt.  On the bare soil, most of the snow has already gone.