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What Is

“What is left
is what is.”
– Wendell Berry, The Broken Ground

Lingering soreness from a long winter hike and tackling a foot of snow with a snowblower that quite halfway through the task, leaving only shovels to overcome mechanical obstinance. Fatigue, not all of it in muscles, wished me a good morning with a smirk.

Looking out the window, I saw the tip of a snow drift dropping down from the roof, as if a wave frozen in the middle of its break. This naturally lured me outside for a look, which led to a walkabout, which led to slipping on snowshoes for a walk in the deep snow out to the bird feeders at the edge of the woods. Silently carving my two foot path across the yard, nothing but the rubbing clumpy sound that cold snow makes when compressed. One foot in front of the other, out and back, feeders filled. Were the yard only longer, for I wasn’t quite ready to finish.

The feeders were wiped out by Starlings. Greedy, sloppy eaters who cast away seed by the shovelful to get at the dried fruit and other choice treats they favor. What’s left is an empty feeder and a mess on the snowy ground that is gobbled up by squirrels and Mourning Doves and other such ground feeders. The food is there for this purpose, so do I have a right to complain? Only at the waste and frenzied emptying. I can either pause feeding until they find somewhere else to ransack or tolerate the intrusion. But once you commit to feeding the birds you can’t very well stop after a heavy snowstorm.

For all the dry sameness of the inside of the house, outdoors offers something new at every turn. The second morning after a big snowfall lacks the drama of tackling the job at hand, but it makes up for it with time to have a look around. To see what’s changed. To assess the landscape and yourself. To see what’s left. What is.

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