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Caseythoughts The ancient saying is that man does not live by bread alone. Variation number one: Man does not live on political thought alone, especially if he wishes to have a decent night's sleep. Information and political overload have conspired to inform me that if I don't back away from politics, world situations and opinions of all shades that I run the risk of going stark raving mad (no snarky comments from those who think I already am...). Step back from the edge and breathe, say my acquaintances who may be the ones who are mad. Advice heeded. I can revel in the natural world around me these few days of spring, so long awaited.

The world has always had an abundance of people who write marvelously and wonderfully about our natural surroundings. My favorite has been E.B. White and I could never, ever match his word-smithing, wit and wisdom, but I can revel in the world around me as it renews itself, once again.

I'm blessed to live in a 'nook' that sits in a very rural location, woods, ponds, Six Mile Creek is nearby, and since my 'nook' sits on top of a garage on the side of a hill, my view is unobstructed down a lovely valley that stretches to the east. The sunrise is mine, and joyful it is. The hills are now dotted with green and white, at their peak of spring green-ness, the one week now in May when every shade of green seems eminently possible: as if the Crayola box of my childhood had sixty four shades of green. This morning would be it, for it is my valley and my sunrise, for one lovely moment.

It's the birds who accompany my morning coffee: my favorite avian friend that I see again this spring is the pilleated woodpecker. It comes to the suet feeder, shy, ready to bolt at my least movement behind the sliding glass door, but what a glorious sight when it is just three feet away, hanging on the feeder, seemingly oblivious to my nearness. A crow-sized kabuki dancer in black and white, with that outrageous red brush on its crown. Its appearance will make my whole day brighter.

Not seen, but heard distinctly, one or more thrushes with their heavenly song that seems to echo through the shag bark hickory trees behind my nook. That glade keeps my living space cool in the summer, and is bursting with green this week, hiding that thrush, but echoing with its song. The song brings me back a childhood memory of sitting in my Aunt Ron's backyard, under a spreading dogwood tree at dawn, and wondering what that melodious and mysterious song was, that never seemed to repeat itself, so ethereal. Even Chopin seemed to try to emulate in one of his concertos. Like Dylan said: 'It's singing a song, just for me.'

Downy and hairy woodpeckers, constantly worrying the feeder and the seeds scattered on the narrow porch floor, brazenly not caring about camouflage, red bellies and flickers as well. Goldfinches are back (how can they just play around until August before building their nest?), and so are the orioles, oranges and yellows. Nature's colors and hues are so absolutely inimitable... of course, cardinals (the male seems to feed the female a seed when she lands), and the red wing blackbirds ('This is mine' seems to be their constant possessive screech) and bluejays like a teenage boy pack, (or maybe mobsters) when they land in screeching force. An occasional thrasher, and for just two mornings, a pair of red breasted grosbeaks (I had to look that one up), just in from the tropics. LBJs (little brown jobs, sparrows) as well as juncos (not as numerous in the spring as winter), starlings and cowbirds, and the ubiquitous chipmunks stuffing their cheeks with the serendipity of fallen seed.

Life's a-freshing, and nature being what she is, death and demise, too. Partner was blessed with a robin's nest near her door, but it was placed by the novice robin pair in a vulnerable spot. The babes had hatched, but were found by an enterprising and naturally murderous crow. In its haste to appropriate its helpless 'catch', one of the hatchlings fell to 'Sammy', the most devious and watchful of the house cats, conveniently sitting near, waiting for manna in the form of feathers. Empty nest syndrome, indeed, in all its natural horror. Nature has always, and will always, have its ways.

A walk through Sapsucker Woods is a daily treat, now, in this week of wonder and beauty: everything seems in bloom at once, and while listening for an unfamiliar bird call I note that there are some beautiful flowers that turn my gaze momentarily to flora, in addition to fauna, and these flora have three white petals, maybe two or three inches above the damp forest floor. Later I am told they are trillium: commonplace enough for some of you, but a joy of discovery and learning for me, a boy scout who didn't seem to learn much about the woods beyond identifying beech trees (they were the ones with the initials carved in the bark), birch trees (the white peeling bark), and poison ivy (often a little too late in being identified). A feeling of contentment that I can truly find small joys in simple but so perfect creation just waiting to be seen and admired. 'Look at you' can be my watchword and operative phrase to tiny flowers, song-ful and extravagant bird sightings. Loving the songs of geese at play and geese at work on the ponds, seeing a heron in all its mating feather regalia, dressed as Solomon. Another thrush sings its aria, and even noting that catbirds can really carry a tune when they think a potential mate (or even a respectful nearby human) might be near.

And now it is dusk, the valley that stretches away from my aerie is lit softly, western sun bringing out new shadows, emphasizing the blooming apple and pear trees across the road, new green on these hills fading to the east, and the birds are quieting down. I am renewed, once again, as this spring morning's promise. Politics and its all its current day attendant angst can wait. Didn't we wait for this all winter? Breathe!!

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