The dogs are twin furnaces who must be fed. Whatever the weather, each morning we go out for a long time. They must run. They must think.
Almost no one walks in the rain. Hundreds of acres at a time are left wide open for us. We see so much, but birds, birds more than anything.
Here, nuthatches, starlings and gray squirrels are nesting in the catalpa. Twenty feet away, purple finches in the low maples. Chickadees and bluebirds in two of the boxes. Close by, an oriole, whose call I hear from the butternut each day. The same crow family comes silently to feed. In this rain and gray they look like images from photographic negatives. Red-winged blackbirds and mourning doves, goldfinches, cardinals, catbirds, every species of woodpecker Pennsylvania produces — they all drop down from the deep woods to the west.
Yesterday, utterly alone in fields bordered by a copse of big trees, all three of us stopped when we heard two wood thrush calling to each other, back and forth for over a minute.
I do not remember any moment that triggered this love. I’ve been feeding them for over thirty years, and that brings them in to see, but habit alone explains nothing. It is as if one lives amid a scent you have never been aware that you relish, and then an awareness begins that permeates every part of your outdoor life, and you awaken to know that there will never be a time again when the incense of birds will not draw you in to always listen, to always look.