It is raining as I pen these words late Friday afternoon. It has been raining since early afternoon and the day is gray and wet. The tree branches are dripping, puddles are spreading across the sidewalk.
After bemoaning our horrific winter and doubting that spring would ever come, I was cautiously optimistic when the vicious cold suddenly broke earlier this week. Sun and rain and temperatures in the 50s have filled the creeks and rivers and melted much of the snow. The large bulldozed piles in parking lots and the smaller shoveled piles lining driveways still remain, but yards and fields are emerging everywhere.
I hung suet blocks in the dogwood tree out back earlier this winter, but until this week, the blocks were untouched, frozen solid. I don't know how the birds survived this winter. Many days were still and silent without any indication that there was a bird left alive in the bleak landscape. Now when I step outside in the morning, I hear a flurry of birds calling and singing. Today's rain has quieted some of that chorus, but there is no doubt the birds are out there.
As I sit here writing, I see a downy woodpecker working over the suet cake. Downies are small birds, mostly black and white. I like to watch them after they finish eating, as they often jump or fly to the tree trunk and then hop their way to the top before flying away.
The dogwood tree is right outside the kitchen. Washing dishes yesterday, I looked up to see a downy finish its meal and hop up the tree, only to be replaced at the suet feeder by a red-bellied woodpecker. I watched them, all thoughts of dishes temporarily set aside, until the downy had hopped up out of sight and the other had flown away.
There is something timeless about standing at a sink with your hands in the dishpan, watching spring return to the backyard.
Later last evening, I met up with a friend and took a walk, my first local walk of 2015 that was more than just hurrying from the car to a building or back again. We were deep in conversation when I suddenly stopped listening to my friend's voice and listened to the sky. A skein of geese was veeing to the north and the faraway sound of honking caught my ear and my attention.
The birds are back.