Alex's theme for the walk was appropriate for the weather—how animals spend their winter, and how they adapt to such radical and frequent changes in conditions. We searched for evidence of their presence, finding signs in the bushes, trees and snow, and mounds (or push-ups) in the cattails just off shore, visible proof that the muskrats are wintering in place. Of course, we discussed the impacts of climate change and some expected influences on the wildlife of the Preserve.
As is a trademark of Alex's outings, we were also treated to some suitable poetry. Aptly, Alex read one poem by Margaret Atwood entitled February and another by Tess Gallagher, Choices, that is quite thought-provoking for nature lovers. Peter Fisher, Friends host for this field trip, provided the summary.
February BY MARGARET ATWOOD
Winter. Time to eat fat
and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat,
a black fur sausage with yellow
Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries
to get onto my head. It’s his
way of telling whether or not I’m dead.
If I’m not, he wants to be scratched; if I am
He’ll think of something. He settles
on my chest, breathing his breath
of burped-up meat and musty sofas,
purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat,
not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door,
declaring war. It’s all about sex and territory,
which are what will finish us off
in the long run. Some cat owners around here
should snip a few testicles. If we wise
hominids were sensible, we’d do that too,
or eat our young, like sharks.
But it’s love that does us in. Over and over
again, He shoots, he scores! and famine
crouches in the bedsheets, ambushing the pulsing
eiderdown, and the windchill factor hits
thirty below, and pollution pours
out of our chimneys to keep us warm.
February, month of despair,
with a skewered heart in the centre.
I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries
with a splash of vinegar.
Cat, enough of your greedy whining
and your small pink bumhole.
Off my face! You’re the life principle,
more or less, so get going
on a little optimism around here.
Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.
Margaret Atwood, “February” from Morning in the Burned House. Copyright © 1995 by Margaret Atwood. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Choices BY TESS GALLAGHER
I go to the mountain side
of the house to cut saplings,
and clear a view to snow
on the mountain. But when I look up,
saw in hand, I see a nest clutched in
the uppermost branches.
I don’t cut that one.
I don’t cut the others either.
Suddenly, in every tree,
an unseen nest
where a mountain
for Drago Štambuk