The sun came out today. It was fiercely bright. All day, the sky was a mad, deep blue. We emerged from the house this morning blinking like underground rodents in sudden klieg lights. The air was so mild, I stripped down to a T-shirt by the end of our walk. My snow boots sank into the soft, mushy, wet skin of the road.
The streams are all running again. The air smells like water; that dry-ice quality of deep winter is gone. The snow is all porous ice from melting and refreezing and melting. Dingo’s fur looks mangy, clumpy: he’s about to blow his undercoat.
There’s a kind of bird around here I call the taxi bird – because they’re as ubiquitous as taxis in New York, and when I first came here four years ago, that was my primary point of reference. The taxi birds are back, singing their two-note descending call from treetops all along the dirt road. And right outside the window where I’m sitting, the little maple tree has buds on it, very little and very hard, but buds nonetheless.
A while ago, I knocked off work and went out with a glass of wine and sat on the porch in my jeans and socks and T-shirt and bathrobe – my winter writer’s uniform. This is always my favorite time of day, but today was especially nice. Dingo lay next to me, ears and nostrils all aquiver, but there was nothing going on for him to bark at. The sun was setting and the air was absolutely still. After days of howling winds and lowering fog and dripping eaves, the serene silence felt as shocking as the sudden warmth.
I came back inside and sat at the table again, looking out the window. When the light on Dundee Hill changed from hot pink to deep purple, I stuck a cookie sheet filled with cut-up new potatoes – as it happened, hot pink, deep purple along with humdrum beige — and whole peeled garlic cloves, tossed in peanut oil with black pepper and kosher salt, into a hot oven.
Marinating in a big glass bowl on the counter are skinless, boneless chicken thighs. Earlier, I made a sort of Spanish-y marinade of dry white wine, tomato paste, lemon juice, chopped olives, chopped garlic, a whole sliced onion, paprika, the rest of the sage that’s been in the fridge drawer since Rosie made her Thanksgiving stuffing, a whiff of cinnamon, saffron, and black pepper. I’ll brown the thighs first, then put them in a bowl while I simmer the sauce, then add them back in when the onions are soft and the wine has cooked off. Meanwhile, I’ll steam some broccoli in chicken broth, and then we’ll eat.
All day, in my head, I’ve been reciting the e. e. cummings poem that starts,
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
whistles far and wee
and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s
when the world is puddle-wonderful…
Actually, I’ve really just been thinking the words “mud-luscious” and “puddle-wonderful” over and over, and the rest of it sort of fills in chockablock with a galumphing joyful rhythm around those two words, along with “far and wee.”
I have to admit something. I did a Google search on “Taxi Bird.” Stupid, yes, but now I’m curious as to the kind of bird you’re hearing. I’ll get over it.
I live in Covington, Kentucky – right across the river from Cincinnati, Ohio. Out for my own walk this afternoon, on this party cloudy, 70 degree day, I saw my first American Robin of the season. That’s my sign that winter is coming to an end – not that we’ve had much of one here. I always say once you get past February, March will be a mixed bag of weather, but winter is basically over. Some people look at me like I’m nuts when I say this, but let ’em. I can be nuts if I want to be.
I think you’re hearing white-throated sparrows — although the Cornell Ornithology site only plays the longer song (http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/white-throated_sparrow/id), there’s a discussion on this bird forum by a bunch of musicologists about the 2-note song (http://www.whatbird.com/forum/index.php?/topic/80654-2-note-bird-call-id/). Which, I’ve used to call my dogs for ages, since it’s the only thing I can whistle.
And here in Montana, we too are emerging blinking out of our winter caves. I washed and hung all the bedding and kitchen linens on the line yesterday — sunshine! sunshine!
Your blogs make me want to read all your books, cook, eat, and read some more. Thank you for them.