The birds must “know” that winter is nearly here. The days get short, the nights long, the sun is far to the south. Is there any comprehension at any level, or just instinct, the result of hundreds of millions of years of Darwinian selection?
The tree isn’t simply barren because of the season – this birch tree got some sort of disease and died about two years ago. Our gardener keeps asking when he should cut it down, but I keep putting it off. I sort of like the way it stands in the front yard, skeletal, white, the fractal branch patterns providing constant perches for the sparrows, mockingbirds, mourning doves, hummingbirds, and occasional crow or hawk.
Plus, for years we have put white Christmas lights and stars into the birch tree, its branches and the lights combining for a most pleasing sight. Where would I put the white lights and stars if I let them cut it down?
Then there’s winter, particularly winter in Southern California. I tease The Long-Suffering Wife about how she talks about retiring to Vermont when she’s only been there in spring, summer, and fall – she’s never seen a Vermont winter for even a weekend. But I realize that it’s been forty years since I have as well, and my middle aged body might have acclimated to the low-50’s being “freezing” and the 70’s in December being normal.
So while my brain stem periodically sends up longing feelings for the cycle of the seasons that seems so lost in life here, the more evolved parts of my brain keep saying, “Hold on, just a minute there…” Still, I would like to see four actual seasons again.
I wonder if the birds know how easy they’ve got it compared to their New England cousins. I wonder if either the SoCal sparrows or the New England sparrow give a damn either way.
I wonder if the birds appreciate the dead birch tree being left up for them.
Sometimes I just wonder why I wonder.