At the first sign of ice, the mallards left. They had been hanging around the pond for weeks, dipping their heads beneath the surface and tugging up weeds. They were storing as much energy as they could before the final leg of their journey south.
Last week the ice began at the shallow edges, slowly creeping towards the center. By Friday, I realized something was different. The pond was still. No dabbling ducks, no rippling water. Just ice and a patch of snow. The mallards have migrated, and winter has arrived.
Some birds stay. Between the snowy branches I hear a single note, repeated. The call to a partner: “here I am, here I am”. I stop and find the sound, a female cardinal, bravely perched like a flame against the monotonous brown. No song, no chatter, simply communication for survival.
So many winters before, I have felt the ache to migrate. I sought after a fresh climate and a new perspective. I molted my feathers for the flight. I craved change. But this year, like the cardinal, I will brave the winter. I will take stock. What do I have? What am I missing? In the solitude and stillness of winter there may not be answers. But there is space and silence in which to listen.
I walk across the lawn to my back door and place my boots in the same footprints I made yesterday. I have a routine now. There will soon be a trodden path from my door to the park. I am here to stay.