Day by day the sun burns through the cold and challenges winter’s grip upon the land. Old Sol breaks through that cloud cover and reveals some of those oceans of deep blue of summer that lie behind those clouds.
Rolls of those strato-cumulus clouds, like long pillows of cotton, stretch from horizon to horizon, nestling the stretches of blew between them. After a time I notice that if I watch closely a node or finger on one of these long cloud banks, and fix its position behind the tip of a tall conifer here on the banks of the Red River, I can see that finger of cloud move, and I can determine that the great cloud moves from east to west.
So much of Nature tries the patience of us humans — at least this human. We are used to 30 second visuals on TV. And then we pass quickly on to something else. Or else, even more insidiously, we have two-second ads flashed before our eyes, registering subconscious impressions that program our thinking and preferences.
Nature, on the other hand, can take a thousand years to wear away a rock. And even that is only a blink of the eye on nature’s calendar of events.
And speaking of blinks, two red squirrels just flashed across my line of vision about 30 yards in front of me, one chasing the other. What was that all about?
The motivation of the trailing squirrel seems to be unclear. The advance squirrel must have challenged the right of the trailing squirrel to some morsel or other. They run up a fallen log and leap into the distance out of sight, one after the other. And they have just challenged my assertion that things in nature can move incredibly slowly.
That warming sun has just about cleared those rolls of clouds out of the sky now. The air is still chilled, but animal life has taken the notion to welcome the sun. I see a gathering of 11 white-tail deer 100 yards to my right. And now nine wild turkeys parade by 30 yards ahead of me.
Speaking of slow changes, I am wondering if I am seeing fewer birds than I used to. Oh, I casually attribute it to winter or my attentiveness or this or that.
However after the passing of a few years, I begin to wonder. I saw only 12 species of birds in January, 10 in December, 10 in November. This is viewing without going on any bird hikes and without having multiple fancy bird feeders like my neighbor.
Of course I ask, is this just a passing occurrence? Has this downsizing in bird numbers happened before from time to time? And the lifetime of we humans is so brief, less than a century. And I can speak, at the momentum, for only one lifetime. So with Nature moving at thousand year steps or more, I will have to just wait. And wonder.
James Alger, who lives in Fargo, N.D., has been a summer resident of the Leech Lake area with his family for over 45 years. Over that time he has grown to love and appreciate the people and the woodlands of this area.