Early morning on a winter snowscape. Not another living creature in sight besides me.

Yet I live with the knowledge that they are just out of sight. In this instance it is not I that have disturbed their peace and caused their absence, but simply that the cold and the lingering dark keep them under cover. I am fully confident that they are just beyond my viewing. We humans live with that confidence, even though ecologists tell us we are busy destroying that confidence in the ever presence of living creatures on the planet, destroying it with over destructive habits with the atmosphere.

We humans make efforts to shore up that confidence while at the same time maintaining our bad habits with the atmosphere. Yesterday, for example, my neighbor invited me over to see a cardinal on his feeder. I had asked him to do this, as I hadn’t seen one at feeders in midwinter for a year or more.

There it was! As big and red and proud and gorgeous as can be, shimmering its crimson in the winter sun. I went home confident that God is with us, and there is hope yet for humanity. It was like the canary in the coal mine – “the canary is still alive, fellows; we are still safe down here.” Birds are our harbingers of hope.

I like to think that I am above the hoi poloi of those who threaten the planet’s atmosphere. My children who belong to the new generation of citizen-ecologists, are ahead of me, but they are working on me. Let’s hear it for the young Greta Thunberg in today’s world who lead the parade in defense of our planet.

Ah! Gray squirrel is creature number one to appear on today’s snowscape, scampering along high up in an oak tree to my left. And now American crow is number two to appear. Did gray squirrel first appear to me high up because he came from a home up there. Perhaps so.

And now several black forms came sailing in ahead of me, which I take to be more crows until I realize crows don’t normally flock in such numbers then I realize they are turkeys. They are creatures number three to appear this morning, or in the dim light did I mistake the earlier turkeys as crows? Hmm. The crows have since appeared in a nearby tree tops.

This morning, as before, I have looked about and wondered where the turkeys have bedded down, and where might I go to catch them napping. Then I realize again (I’ve learned this before) that I need to look up, not down. They were roosting in the oaks and elms all around me. That suggests a good admonition for today: Look up, old man! Look up!

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.

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