Sunday, November 23, 2008

Birds in the Snow

Matthew and I spent Friday afternoon in the sewing room. I pieced a quilt top, and he played nearby. A gentle snow was falling: large fluffy snowflakes gradually covered the ground. Thankfully, there was no wind.

I noticed a few small sparrows land in the front yard and begin to eat, reaching through the soft snow cover to the ground below. Then, more landed. Within minutes, small birds were scattered across our entire front yard.

I called Wesley at the quilt store, and described the scene to him. I couldn't imagine what the birds could find to eat in our yard. He reminded me that he spread grass seed again a few weeks ago. This past summer, he coaxed a lawn to grow on our prairie hilltop, but there are still a few bare patches that he had to reseed.

"There's plenty more grass seed in the garage", he told me. "You can sprinkle some more out there for the birds."

I filled a paper cup with grass seed, and headed outside. The sound of the door opening startled the birds, and they quickly flew away, their grey feathers blending into the sky above.
Undeterred, I scattered the seed around the yard, noticing how cold it was outside. I felt bad about disrupting the little birds as they ate, and hoped they would return.

Sure enough, within minutes the flock was back. They feasted on the seed for quite a while, as snow gently fell to the ground. Some were close enough to my window that I could see each snowflake as it landed on their feathers.

Finally, the flock departed. I imagine they sought shelter in a nearby grove of trees or farm shed. Instinctively, they chose to find a good meal before snow completely covered the landscape, and I was happy they found their feast in our front yard.

With the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, this experience reminded me of our many blessings.
As I sat in our warm sewing room with Matthew and our two cats, watching the little birds outside the window, I was intensely grateful for our cozy home with its abundance of comforts. I thought of our pantry full of healthy food, and how we never doubt where our next meal will come from. I was appreciative of the love of family and friends, and reflected upon the serene beauty of our life here in North Dakota.

I shared a simple gift of a cup of grass seed with those little birds, and in return they gave me so much more.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Our Snow Day

Good Morning.

Wednesday afternoon, a winter storm blew into the Dakotas. First rain, then freezing rain, then snow, then unrelentingly wind. The phone woke me around 6am, a call to notify us that Wesley's 7 am Chamber of Commerce meeting was canceled. I snuggled up under a quilt, cup of coffee in hand, and listed to our local radio station. Weekdays, Dwight is the morning announcer, before he heads off to work at his other job, running Knutson's Feed Store. He is a font of information, faithfully relaying the latest weather forecasts, road reports, school news, along with assorted schedules, cancellations, last minute changes, and other useful tidbits.

Around 6:30am, Dwight confirmed that school was closed, and Sheriff Molbert sternly called in to the station to advise absolutely no travel. I gleefully turned the radio off, and woke everybody up, including Laurie-Ann and Hampton (her preciously cute Yorkie puppy), staying with us for the work week.

"It's a Snow Day... We can't go anywhere!" Matthew eagerly planned a day of snowmen, snow balls, snow forts and snow angels until Wesley let had him poke his head out the front door into the blizzard. He quickly realized that inside was the best place to play.

Because we were up so early, we got a lot of tasks done. Wesley & Matthew put together some new furniture, Laurie-Ann sewed most of the day, and I cleaned off my desk and worked on the website. Surprisingly, we had electricity all day, and even the Internet worked until mid-afternoon.

Most of the pets enjoyed the event. The cats, Aimee and Abbie relished in the extra attention. Laurie-Ann's puppy Hampton happily played with Matthew in a fort they build in the living room, using quilts, pillows, and the big boxes from the new furniture. Our big dog Sox, used to spending his days roaming around outside, was anxious about the bad weather, and didn't like being cooped up inside.

As much as we enjoyed our unexpected break from our busy lives, I couldn't help but worry about ranchers out in the weather caring for their animals. A Dakota blizzard is also hazardous for people who become sick and can't get to the hospital, or those who find themselves without heat or electricity. For many, I'm sure this storm brought plenty of hardship, danger, and worry.
I thought of the homesteaders who first wintered on the open prairie, in little cabins with sod roofs and poor insulation. No running water or electricity, poor heat, and none of the modern conveniences that we take for granted. I imagine them huddled around a fireplace or wood stove, doing their best to care for their young children and their precious herds, wondering if they would live to see the end of the blizzard. Many pioneers left the prairie, due to the harsh weather and difficult circumstances. But, many chose to stay... building better homes, barns for their animals, schools and churches. In the midst of a Dakota blizzard, I am amazed at the perseverance and work ethic of our ancestors, in awe of what they must have endured.
I woke Friday morning to the surprising sound of silence. I listened carefully.... no wind. Blanketed in snow, our house was warm and peaceful. I looked out, and for the first time in over a day, I could see our road and the lights of town in the distance. Snowbanks as far as the eye could see, but the storm was over, as was our "Snow Day".