The day began cold with a bite in the air gnawing just below my coat. Not to the bones like the months ahead will bring, but deep enough to convince me that winter will set before too long.
The drive was short this time and I recognized the landscape when he let me out of the car. I knew we were here for birds as he had already shot one on the way. We spotted it flush from the tree line to the ditch so he hit the brakes hard and pulled to the side of the road. He grabbed the gun and shut the door. Left me in the damn car by myself. I tried my best to draw his attention by whining. When this didn’t work, I though maybe by whining and barking louder I could flush the bird from the confines of my temporary prison. How inconsiderate of him to take pursuit without me?? He returned a moment later with a single bird. I would like to think he didn’t see the other two that flushed back toward the car and then disappeared back into the thick cover of a mixed stand of black spruce and poplar without a second shot on his part. If only he had put me to use, we may have been two birds the richer.
We were on the trail just as the sun began to kiss the tips of stubby spruce trees. Some were crooked and hung lower. Perhaps they were just older and had become hunched from many years of standing watch over the moss, lichen, and berries below. It had been cold enough now that the lingonberries were as delicate as the neighboring blueberries. With the slightest touch, both would erupt their innards and cover me in deep red berry-gut interpretations of Pollock. He would sometimes grow concerned that I had impaled myself on a stick or he had inadvertently filled me with #7.5 lead on a hurried shot in tight cover. But no, it was just the berries.
For a while, the moss held my weight. It was frozen just to the point where my bounds and frolic were substantiated such that I need not mind my step. As the day grew, the warmth would turn frost covered branches and firm undergrowth into wet noodles. By noon, it was warm enough that he was down to a t-shirt and complaining it was too warm for traipsing around the woods. Nonetheless, this was an absurd day. If the woods were a bird bank, someone had just made a sizable deposit. So I cared not that the effort of the chase seemed to increase in perpetuity as most were fruitful and laden with avian arousal.
Upon one flush in a small poplar stand, I chased a bird deep into the cover of some neighboring spruce. The bird went deeper and so did I. I could hear him calling for me as he made his way to the edge of the spruce. With pure shit luck I suppose, I happened on the far side of the bird and started driving it back in his direction. The bird picked up speed and so did I. I was closing in on the bird as we closed in on him. Suddenly, I heard him let out a modestly shrill yelp and a smattering of curse words. Apparently, the bird had clipped him in the head as the path of our tumultuous tango intersected his.
We would walk on a ways further. For a while without a seeing a single bird. He didn’t seem to care. Sometimes I wonder if he is talking to me or to the trees and squirrels. The day would end with 12 birds in the cooler, none of which he would let me take as my own. It is frustrating to work so hard and not receive fitting compensation. That is to say if room, board, and the companionship he provides are presumed to be of little or no cost.
The woods are a fine place to seek solace
or take weekly confession
So mind not if I am lost in the shimmering hoar frost
and my silent entourage of grey jays.
I will take them gladly
over the city squawk and @mentions
For this air is better
and I as well for having shared its company.