March 1. It is my first climb to the top of the tree by night since my shoulder injury. It is moonless and dark. The sky is a winter sky, black and brilliant with stars, but the air and soundscape are those of spring. The breeze is soft with moisture and almost—but not quite—warm on my face. From an unusual high of 60 it has dropped to 40 degrees. And Alger Brook, in the ravine across the road, is in full spate. Swollen with rain and snowmelt, it roars in the night, leaping over rocks and down channels.
And then, unexpectedly for the first day of March, I hear the first woodcock, earlier than I thought possible, chittering in the darkness somewhere high above the meadow. A stray, cresting ahead of its migratory wave?
Two so different wild cries break the silence of the night. Brook; bird. Constricted water; constricted air. The syrinx of the stones; the rushing channel of the throat.
When I close my eyes it is spring; I open them to hard stars above, and below me snow, and Christmas lights still strung along our porch.
Winter and spring jostle and abound. Briefly.
In a few days winter, for the time being, wins out, tying a tourniquet of cold and ice around the brook, which grows quiet; and the ground is frozen hard by subzero nights as wind blows snow up the hillside. It is hard to imagine a woodcock plunging its beak into the mud for earthworms now, and I worry for it.