4:18:23 PM

We’re up to nine Christmas trees now – enough to reach about a third
of the way across the backyard, my miniature wildlife corridor in
the making.

After yesterday’s indoor experience, I went out searching for
some meaning in the crusty snow and gray stems of the park out
back. Mostly I found just crusty snow and gray stems – no buds that I
could see. A couple of old birches had snapped and fallen, but only
halfway, still hanging in the branches of their neighbors. With a
few old oak exceptions, the trees in the park’s little wood patches
are young – a lot of small saplings, a few great grandparents,
and not much in between.

The elder trees bear much closer examination. Their bark, like human
skin, is very expressive. Over the years, lines of worry, sorrow and
laughter reveal old habits. Deer rubs smooth out the wrinkles. Wounds
deepen them. Moss softens hard edges. Ice sharpens them.

Moss spreads from the big trunks over the earth below, poking out,
still green, from the lingering, hardened snow.

Our local pileated woodpecker swings from tree to tree, always perching
away from me.

In the park proper, big cottonwoods tower over a barren stretch of
rocky ground (mowed and cleared every week when there isn’t snow,
though that may change this year, now that the park has been
‘renewed’). But I notice that even the squirrels (who seem to
be everywhere) avoid these trees. I think they don’t like the trees’
isolation – they like to have options when it comes to access and
escape. Just a few steps away are their nests, in little clumps of
trees with a dense, connected canopy.