These mornings, mostly what’s different is the birds. I may not be able to distinguish each individual call, but I know it’s not the same as it was a week ago. The birds are louder and there’s more variety. There may be snow on the ground, but it no longer sounds like winter.
I also see them out of the corner of my eye, the almost constant blur of movement, in the air, trees and on the ground, gone before I can turn my head.
As I carry hay to the feeders, three pairs of mallards fly haphazardly high overhead all going in different directions. The quick herky-jerky movement of their wings making it seem as if they’re in a great hurry.
So unlike the Canada Geese who float and sail in comparison.
Two pairs fly so low over the farm, I can hear their wings creak as they move through the air. I think they’ll land in the pond, but they circle back to the cornfield. Then I hear them, there are already geese in the pond.
As I watch they walk into the clearing by the gate. Six geese in all, leisurely stretching their legs and strolling around the back pasture as if looking for a place to throw down a blanket and have a picnic.
I’m called back by the distinctive trill of the Red-winged blackbird but can’t find him. Instead, I spot a nuthatch on the apple tree and at the same time notice the crow in the tall maple that borders the farm. I wonder if they welcome the spring birds back like I do.
It’s warm but overcast, no sun yet. My neighbors, the mountains, are as pale as the clouds. If I didn’t know they were there, I’d think they didn’t exist.
All this time I’ve been silently waving my hand at Fate, motioning her to keep going as she circles the sheep munching on hay. But it’s time to muck out the barn and refill the water.
When I’m done I call Fate out of the Barnyard.
As usual, it takes two or three times before she comes. But I’m feeling patient today and it doesn’t bother me.
I notice though there are different birds at the feeder they’re not eating as much seed. They’re not hanging out in the lilac bushes either. Soon I’ll take the feeder down and I’ll hear the birds more than see them.
Even the chickens are eating less feed. They wander all day scratching and pecking at the ground, spending less time under the bird feeder. Although I haven’t seen any, the insects must be waking in the softening earth.
At the house, the cats clean themselves on the back porch. I take off my muddy boots and leave them outside. Fate runs into the house before I can stop her, waiting to get inside before shaking herself off, mud splattering the walls and table legs.
Spring is a few days away. Spring is already here.