(HOST) As the days grow shorter, commentator Edith Hunter is thinking about the power of light.
(HUNTER) It was twelve degrees when I came downstairs, and the first snow had finally arrived. When it fell, the grass was still green. With the thermometer so low the snow remained on the ground.
I had replenished the bird feeders and suet holders before I went to bed. I also put some seed on a feeding tray which attracts the blue jays. They knock a lot of the seeds onto the ground below.
As I sat down to breakfast, business out there was brisk. Bird customers were arriving and departing at a steady rate. The Audubon Christmas bird count is this weekend. There’s no reason not to be making some rough estimates right now.
My pair of cardinals are here. They do not come to the hanging feeders but find what they want on the ground. They are joined down there by a couple of tree sparrows, and a flock of juncos.
The bird feeders above are kept swinging by the regular arrival and departure of the chickadees. They select a seed, and immediately bounce away. The non-golden goldfinches and the house finches are quite different in their eating habits; they land on a feeder-perch and then eat, and eat, and eat. The white-breasted nuthatch and the red-breasted nuthatch have both arrived, as have a couple of tufted titmice.
The hairy and downy woodpeckers are the major guests at the suet, although the chickadees will occasionally land, take a nibble, and then fly over to the seed supply.
Things will be less busy in the middle of the day, but by 3 PM business will be brisk again, until darkness descends. The birds must fill up when they can. The days are so short now.
This set me to thinking. The activities of human beings have warmed up the planet sufficiently to begin to alter our seasons – no snow in Vermont this November, and green grass in December.
The rhythm of the seasons has been the basis of so much of our thinking and feeling, and how we express ourselves. How will changes in seasonal patterns affect our poetry and music?
Then I wondered: could our human activity possibly alter the other great markers of the year – the solstices? Surely no human activities can change the angle of the earth in relation to the sun – the basis of the solstices. Well, that’s reassuring.
During the Christmas season we note the almost standing still of the sun, and then, in the beginning of January, the gradual increase in the hours of daylight.
Light is a source of joy, and the return of light gives a lift to our spirits. So do our bird friends outside our kitchen windows.
Writer and historian Edith Hunter lives in Weathersfield Center.