Firsts

fog wires

Festival of the Trees #7 appeared a few hours early last night — I presume the host had a party to go to, unlike me — and was one of the last things I looked at before going to bed at around 11:45. The rain was loud on the roof. Just as I was drifting off to sleep, I heard a distant rumble. Thunder, I thought. But in January? It was followed by a second rumble a few seconds later. The surprise of it woke me enough to look at the clock and realize that it wasn’t thunder I was hearing, but human beings marking an arbitrarily designated moment of time by discharging guns and explosives. My first thought of the supposed New Year — “Thunder!” — had been a delusion.

foggy view from porchI woke eight hours later, grateful for the rare gift of a full night’s sleep. When I stepped out on my porch, coffee mug in hand, I was greeted by thick fog and the honking of Canada geese. They flew right overhead, so low that I could easily hear the wing beats, though the cloud hid them from view. My first birds of the New Year had been invisible.

I was reminded of New Year’s Day 2000, which began here with a thick snow fog — and with the turn of the millennium still a year away, contrary to the widespread popular delusion. Looking back, it makes me a little sad to realize that the tenacity of that delusion prevented us from enjoying a really memorable, planet-wide millennium-ending celebration on December 31, 2000.

Ten minutes later, a single crow flew in and landed at the top of a tall black locust tree at the edge of the woods. Unlike the “maybe crow” in the poem I just linked to, though, there was no doubt about this one’s identity. At least, not on my part — for all I know, the bird itself was in the middle of an identity crisis. Corvids are certainly smart enough to be capable of self-awareness, and thus also self-doubt, I suppose. Anytime you see a crow by itself, you have to wonder what it’s up to. It sat there silently for less than a minute, then flew off to the southeast. My first omen-like observation of the New Year had been — as always — highly ambiguous.

My first mammal sighting was of a gray squirrel — no surprise there! — perched on the head of the dog statue in my front yard, chewing open the hard shell of a black walnut. This silly game, taking note of first things, had led me to focus on a scene that was no less charming for being commonplace.

After a while, I got up and fetched camera and tripod for a few pictures of the fog. This galvanized me to lace up my shoes and go for a walk — one of my very few, inflexible New Year’s customs. I didn’t realize until later, when I uploaded my photos to the computer, how much trouble the camera had focusing in the fog. My first photos of the New Year were out-of-focus!

bear poleI was getting pretty hungry by this time, so I only took a short walk. I noticed that a couple of the power poles appeared to have fresh bear markings on them, though most likely they’ve been there for a couple of months and I only noticed them today because last night’s rain made them stand out. The bears are probably all in hibernation right now, though as warm as the weather’s been, I wouldn’t bet too much on that. We’ve seen bears out wandering around in Januarys past, whether from insomnia or an improperly triggered internal clock, who can say? Something like a rumble of thunder might wake them up.

*

Another New Year, 8:30 a.m.
Like a bear making claw marks
on a telephone pole,
I decide to take roll.

Low-flying geese,
solitary crow,
squirrel on the head of a concrete dog,
the fog.

Here, I answer.
Here.

12 Comments


  1. I wish I had thought to record the first sightings of the New Year, but instead have forgotten everything I’ve seen since sunrise. Oh wait, now I remember, the sky was gray.

    Happy New Year, dave.

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  2. Happy New Year Dave. Thanks for the Smorgasblogarsm links.

    I find the top pictures above (blue trees) outstanding. I can imagine a hermit wandering through that landscape, mumbling prayers.

    A great way to start the year (the photos, I mean, not the mumbling, though that might be good too).

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  3. It is traditional for me to do a half hour ‘consequences that might lead to what unfolds in the future’ meditation on New Year’s Day… except for one year, which was absolutely uncanny in the accuracy of its preditions, nothing much has ever been borne out. I persist, though.

    (It’s a sort of resolution-type thing, surely!)

    And this wish for you- that what we persist with now may be fruitful in the future.

    Many blessings, many good wishes for the coming year…

    *hugs, Brenda

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  4. Good post and good poem, Dave. I can see that you and the squirrels are off to a great start!

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  5. My first bird of the year was a Cooper’s Hawk. I wonder what that portends for my future?

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  6. Our first birds of the year were also unseen Canada Geese (that flew over, honking) before we’d gotten out of bed. Maybe they were just making the rounds?

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  7. Now that you mention it, I did not see any crows on the tree behind our place on January first. They are always there in the morning. Do city crows get New Years Day off?

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  8. Happy New Year, Dave! Thank you for your wonderful blogs of writings and fab photos, and for your friendship! (I mistyped it grienship – an interesting new word?) May the New Year be full of abundant creativity.

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  9. robin andrea – Yeah, but you got bald eagles!

    leslee – Thanks! That does seem about the best one can hope for, barring some kind of enlightenment.

    Teju – Glad you liked. (You just can’t get over the fact that “smorgasblog” has “orgasm” in it, can you?)

    Brenda – Thanks, and I wish you success in your envisioning, even as the world continues to surprise and delight.

    beth – I got squirrels in the walls now, and this house ain’t big enough for me and them both. So can I move in with you?

    Laura – That all depends on what it was doing. But the mere fact that it was surviving, given the odds against a raptor making it to adulthood, might be a good omen!

    Karen – Maybe, but they would’ve had to have been traveling at about twice the speed of sound, I think. Did you hear a boom?

    Fred – They were probably all gathered around the dumpsters, feasting on discarded pizza!

    Marja-Leena – Thanks, and the same to you! I look forward to many more years of griendship with all of you.

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  10. There has to be something special about being able to see bear claw marks on a tree outside one’s front door on new year’s day. Happy new year, Dave, may every day of it be full of unique surprises and may your computer be alert, well-behaved and obedient to your every whim.

    Reply

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