Look at winter

With winter eyes

As smoke curls from rooftops

To clear cobalt skies.

– Douglas Florian

I wake to the dark of a new day, stirring between warm bed sheets as the baby monitor beside me crackles to life, little snippets of sound from a waking babe. I reluctantly pull off the down comforter, swing my bare feet to the wooden floor and shudder at the cold breeze from the open bedroom window. I creep down dark hallways, push open bedroom doors and greet my morning baby, standing in the crib giggling. Scooping her up she tells me tiny tales of dreams once had, ooohs and ahhhs of excitement to be out of bed and in my arms. We dive into our routine of kisses on cheeks, of changing soiled diapers, of raspberries on tummies, all by the dim nightlight on the change table.

With baby balanced on my hip, we make our way out to the living room, flicking on the overhead light. It casts a soft glow over last nights scattered toys. I set babe gently down on her quilted play mat amongst her blocks and make my way to the woodstove. Crumpled pages of magazines are used to make a bed in the belly of the woodstove. Thin pieces of dry timber stacks are placed on top as kindling and two larger pieces of wood are placed on this. I strike my match, a tiny flame popping to life, and hold the glowing head to the edges of the paper. They take, and flames lick at the wood and glass, filling the room with the faint glow of firelight. On top of the stove the small fan begins to dance to life as the heat wafts up.

We spend the next couple hours of our day with the world outside in darkness, as we play beside a glowing stove. We shape dough rising overnight on the counter for supper’s bread. We complete our mundane tasks, like unloading the dishwasher or folding laundry. We build towers and knock them down in fits of laughter. We stand at the back door barefoot, our toes cold on the tiles, and feed treats to brother Hank, who takes cookies from tiny hands like they were made of glass.

When little yawns form on baby lips, it’s time to slip back to the nursery, lights down low, and rock to the hushed singing of Puff the Magic Dragon. And as little eyes close slowly, slipping back into dreamland naps, the sun is just starting to peek her head above the horizon.

Now, the morning becomes mine.

The boiling kettle whistles from the stovetop, hot water poured over grounds fills the kitchen with wafting aromas of fresh coffee. I pull my favourite mug from its shelf in the cupboard, and fill it to the brim. This morning requires all the caffeine. I seat myself at our little kitchen table, a vintage formica set with matching red vinyl chairs, snuggled into our breakfast nook surrounded by three large windows. This is where I will watch the world come alive with the sunrise.

The sun is slow to creep above the tree line, our yard surrounded by large spruce trees standing guard against the wind and elements. Her golden rays cast beams of light through the tree branches, catching like diamonds on the morning frost. A fresh blanket of snow lay untouched, the world a white contrast to the lightening sky above. Three sleepy dogs take refuge in their doghouse under the Spruce trees, having spent a night of patrol on the farm, the sun rise goes unnoticed behind closed eyelids and soft snores.

Little painted pictures are illuminated on the windows as the sun finally peeks her head above the trees, greeting the morning and little wisps left behind from Jack Frost on the glass. In these moments I am reminded by Mother Nature to slow down, taking in all the beauty that surrounds me through these winter eyes.

Not long after the sun has kissed the world awake, the little suet feeders placed on string hooks outside the windows become a hot spot of activity. Chickadees bob through the air, darting from tree branch to tree branch, landing with little feet on the feeders. Through the glass window I hear them sing a greeting , “Chick – a – dee – dee – dee”. They hop and bounce, flitting from feeder to feeder and taking off into the cover of the trees. In their place, the black and white bellies of little woodpeckers appear, darts of red as they feed clinging to the bottom of the cup shaped suet. Their delicate little toes grasp tightly, anchoring them in place as they feast. From little Downy woodpeckers, to their slightly larger cousins the Hairy woodpeckers, there is constant action at the feeders this morning. The frost and chill in the air brings the birds from hiding, looking for energy to keep warm throughout this Winters day.

I sip on hot coffee, staring and losing myself in the world outside my window. I watch as the sunlight catches on snowdrifts piled high into the branches of the Spruce trees. Whiskey Jacks dive from their branched platforms, darting to the dog bowls left on the deck and cleaning up any food the dogs left behind. It becomes a battle of cries between them and the Blue Jays, perched atop the railing of my clothesline. Tufts of blue feathers, puffed up to look like little balls of fluff trying to keep warm. My camera lens trains in on one, click click, and then it’s gone back into the safety of the trees.

It’s not long before my feathered friends are joined by busy little squirrels. Little red bundles of fur fly from tree top to tree top, running and jumping to the next branch on the next tree. Their rambunctious chatters are enough to draw the dogs from their deep sleep. My three giant protectors park themselves below the branches, waiting for a wrong move. These silly dogs spend hours under the trees, chasing the squirrels. I’m still not sure who enjoys it more, because it has clearly become a game of chase for the squirrels as well. A plume of snow falls from the farthest tree, catching Hank’s attention and sending speeding over to inspect, bouncing up at the lower most branch. A fitful chattering erupts from the squirrel above, pleased at himself no doubt for outsmarting such a big beast.

The beep of the oven timer beside me in the kitchen draws me back inside. I slide quickly from my chair to stop the sound that seems to be echoing off the walls of the quiet kitchen. Donning my oven mitts, I open the oven door to a warm waft of air hitting my face, and immediately the smell of fresh bread is consuming the kitchen. I place the hot loaves of sourdough bread onto the cooling rack sitting on the counter, their brown crusts begin crackling as they cool. They will taste delicious smothered with butter and our own honey, and my mouth waters slightly.

Turning back to the window I hear a faint stirring, the timer of the oven or the smell of the bread has roused the baby. I take one last sip of coffee while it’s still hot, steal one more glance out of the kitchen window at the birds and the beasts outside and turn to make my way down the hallway before she begins to cry. As I pull open her bedroom door and hear those little giggles greeting me, I pause. I am thankful. For these slow mornings I am blessed with, for this house and warmth that comfort me, for the daily bread baked in the oven that will feed my family. I am thankful for the beauty of Mother Nature, her glorious sunrises that greet me and the glimpse of a world all it’s own outside my kitchen window. Oh what these winter eyes do see and this winter heart does feel.