Lamentations buried for another year …

“Nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty if only we have the eyes to see them.” John Ruskin

One of my favorite quotes, Ruskin’s proposition had taken hold on me long before I would ever see or hear it. Sitting in my mother’s lap, reading a 50’s edition of Peterson’s “Field Guide to Birds,” I would point to the illustrations and together we would try to imitate their calls. My mother, who really never considered herself a “birder,” instilled a fascination, nonetheless, through those readings and through the myriad small birds we observed at our feeder outside the kitchen window. In winter months she put out sunflower seeds and suet in a cross-hatched, small wire frame hung from the tall pussy willows near the window. It was goldfinches with their insatiable appetite for suet and seeds that caught my interest.  In early winter I recall they were dull green but by late March began to turn yellow – in our small rural town in northeast Ohio, goldfinches were as much the harbingers of spring as the return of robins.

Through the summer, before asters turned to fluff and seed, the goldfinch would explode from the high weeds, dip and climb, start and stall, and sing in flight their cadent song, “perchickory, per tee tee tee.” Threading fields of prickly weed, these acrobats, balanced on seed heads of cone flowers and teasel, joe-pye and aster. Tumbling orbs of color, kaleidoscopic shards of yellow and black, flickering and twisting out of hyssop and iron weed, their ravenous feeding sending pappus floating to earth to resurrect in spring.

November comes and still a goldfinch or two explode from thistle and weeds sounding a few piercing notes, then rattle and whisper their elegy – lamentations buried for another year.