In the day’s first light, just as the bedroom was beginning to warm with color, a sound outside the window snapped my eyes open.
Our town has been continually besieged by winter storms over the last few months. Early in the morning, our street has been full of ugly mechanical, man-made noises: Hemi truck engines rumbling to starts and left to idle indefinitely. Windows begin scrapped clear of ice. Salt trucks grumbling down the side-streets and shaking the houses to their foundations.
A run of terrible weather that began with a foot of snow falling on top of a layer of ice hadn’t ended yet. The temperatures have been frigid for close to two months. Snow still lay preserved on the ground in shallow heaps. In mid-January, it was so cold a pipe burst in the ceiling in our basement and we were forced to live somewhat like pioneers, without the benefit of running water or the ability to flush toilets. This was especially troublesome on the claustrophobic winter nights when the heaps of snow, impassible roads, and subzero temperatures narrow your world to the confines of your house and its front stoop.
Normally, the first moments of waking are full of the bed’s warmness and the body heat of my nine year-old son, who had slept next to me. The warmth usually encourages me to stay in bed another 15 minutes and delay the beginning of the day. But what I heard was a paradox, and it came as clear and beautifully unexpected as any I have ever heard.
Out of the frigid cold came this bird’s voice. I recognized it as a hint of something looming – a break that couldn’t be stopped. Faint but clear chirping my mind associates with spring.
The sound was small and I’m afraid I’m not familiar enough with birds to identify who was the speaker. The talking came in short, sweet bursts. I’m sure I’ve heard that conversation in the spring, finding its way into my room the same way, only louder because I keep the windows open.
On the crisp air the sound that woke me was beautiful for is naturalness – and it came and went quickly. The end of the voice trailed off as though the speaker had offered its opinion and was abruptly off to another place. Gone, in the span of two seconds. Not enough time to shake off drowsiness to go to window in hope of spotting the winter bird whose cadence woke me. So I lay there and wondered … why had it come now?
That small sound brought me fully awake, and inside me I felt something kicked in … something I can only describe as brightness. Something positive. Maybe hope. And as I lay there on my side, I quickly put that feeling to rest. In the second week of February, it seemed too premature to be excited about the temptations of spring. Anyone who has lived through a Kansas winter knows that the weather can change at any moment. The best approach is to not let weather be a factor in your disposition – to forget about it. Take the good days for unexpected blessings, and figure the bad ones for what they are – a normal part of a harsh winter.
And that is the secret, I suppose, to living a full life. Not to invest too much into the days that are failures, and not to become too high on the good days.
I climbed out from the warm bed, ate breakfast and looked out at the day. My son was still sleeping. On the mornings after he’s stayed the night, I have 20 minutes to myself to make coffee and eat breakfast. I usually turn on the radio softly to make some sound in the house to keep me company. But on this morning, I sat in the stillness of the house listening – and waiting – for the first spring bird to chatter again.
Kevin Kuzma lives in Gardner.