There were a thousand blackbirds outside my house this morning. Chirping, pecking, tweeting, fluttering and flying amongst the maples and oaks lining the street. It was a burst of life, instantly exhilarating, welcoming my son and me to the outdoors. “Good morning! Here we are! Isn’t this wonderful?” they cheered. Every fall this happens. The birds come, they swarm the trees and yards, searching for seeds, swooping en masse from tree to ground, ground to tree. The air crackles with electricity when they descend for a few days – a last flurry of activity before the lull of winter comes. Like the excitement of crisp air before it begins to bite, the trees decked with painted leaves, the squirrels that race to bury their hoard of acorns and walnuts for the long days of cold and want.
I love fall. It ties with spring in my heart as the best season, because both are thrilling and relieving at the same time. The air warms or cools and it’s a respite; no longer do you need to escape the temperature. They invite you outside to take a walk, ride your bike, eat on a blanket. Each fill the world with color and make you want to be in it.
I actually like winter, too. But I’m finding it harder to welcome each year. Maybe it’s my bad circulation, or the dry skin I suffer from December to March. I can’t help it – I enjoy feeling comfortable in my epidermis. Or static electricity, sore throats, itchy wool coats, runny noses, finding the lost gloves every morning before school. I’m loving winter less over time, but it does have its benefits. It reminds me to be thankful. In the dark days of February – my least favorite month when my kids are always sick, the air is frigid and the sky is gray-black – I learn to appreciate the glories of the first buds of tulips in my yard. I yelp with excitement the day I see a daffodil, and I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t if I hadn’t been waiting for it so eagerly. Longing for the descent of spring. Though I don’t enjoy it for as long as it lasts, winter is good for me, because when the flowers finally bloom I rejoice. I’m extra glad for the blessing of pinks and yellows. That’s got to be good for the soul.
My daughter and I were remembering the kids’ book Frederick the other day, about a group of field mice preparing for winter. His friends are complaining that he isn’t doing the work of rounding up nuts and straw for them to eat. But Frederick explains that he is gathering sun rays, and colors, and words for the days ahead. I suppose that is what I need to be doing right now as I prepare for the cold to come – the days of sick kids and gray skies. As I look at the glowing trees and watch the blackbirds in my yard I can put the beauty of it into words and store them away to warm me later. I can remember my kids jumping in leaves, and take pictures of us all in shorts to remind me that those days will come again. I can try to cheer the others in my life during the dark months, as Frederick, the poet-mouse did. And many months from now, when I notice the first tulip has broken through the thawing ground, I’ll check off one more season of learning to be thankful for even the smallest of thrills.