Coo

mourning dove

Zenaida macroura, the mourning dove. Love that crazy Latin name. Zenaida is a genus of American doves, but could be a girl’s first name.

Oh, wait: The name of this genus commemorates Zénaïde Laetitia Julie Bonaparte, wife of the French ornithologist Charles Lucien Bonaparte and niece of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Some birds flit, but not doves. We looked at each other for a while, through the sliding glass door. The longer I looked, the more beautiful the bird. It’s loveliness increased.

dove

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits.
– John Keats, Endymion

Cooped up

coop

View of the chicken coop from the back deck yesterday morning.

Time for some fresh air and “free ranging,” I herded my five hens out of the chicken run and along the deep, narrow path through the snow. Under the deck, they scratched around in dirt, gravel and straw wisps.

While they scratched, I did some more snow shoveling. And because it was 45 degrees and the sun was hot and bright, I did it sleeveless. Then I carried a dining room chair out onto the deck and, in t-shirt and shorts (plus boots, still), I soaked up some of that hot sunshine.

Then chores indoors. Later I peered out a window and spied the chickens in a warm, companionable under-deck pile, in slanting sunshine, each one facing a different direction… to keep an eye out for that red-tailed hawk.

chicken run

Opening the coop door to the chicken run, two mornings ago, after snow.

The coop and run are halfway to hobbit hole, as the snow accumulates, packs down and raises the ground level. Seventeen years we’ve lived here and I can’t remember deeper snow on the ground.

But now: rain. All night, in torrents, and into this (early) morning. Strange to hear the sound of water outside. Slushy ice in patches on pavement and still-deep, soaking-wet snow everywhere else. Deeply cloudy skies. Temperature right now: 35 degrees. Forecast:

Screen shot 2014-02-21 at 7.24.17 AM

Chickens and I will be shut in again, my house, their coop like Noah’s arks in storm seas of New England weather.

Watching

cat

Cat.

bird

Bird.

I’m reading a good book now, Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle, by Thor Hanson.

From page 4:

“Animals with backbones, the vertebrates, come in four basic styles: smooth (amphibians), hairy (mammals), scaly (reptiles, fish), or feathered (birds). While the first three body coverings have their virtues, nothing competes with feathers for sheer diversity of form and function. They can be downy soft or stiff as battens, barbed, fringed, fused, flattened, or simple unadorned quills They range from bristles smaller than a pencil point to the thirty-five-foot breeding plumes of the Ongadori, an ornamental japanese fowl. Feathers can conceal or attract. They can be vibrantly colored without using pigment. They can store water or repel it. They can snap, whistle, hum, vibrate, boom, and whine. They’re a near-perfect airfoil and the lightest, most efficient insulation ever discovered.”

Ahoy

shovel out

Snow on snow. Shoveling out last night.

This is the entrance to the mud room. Every home in New Hampshire should have a special entrance for that fifth season (just over the horizon): Mud.

But for now, winter weather is breaking over us in waves.

snow

Probably the most dramatic view of home last night, over the snow dunes, across the storm-tossed crystalline sea.

After our recent storms and wind and temperature fluctuations, and a variety of plowings, blowings, shovelings, the topography has become strange.