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January 11 – 15

An afternoon to evening walk.

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January 12. Sunset. South Mountain.

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January 13

When it started to snow a few days ago, it seemed to me that the snow had finally brought the birds to the bird feeder. For many days it was cold and there weren’t any birds around anywhere in the freezing air or on the frozen ground. Snow flurries and then I saw the cardinals, a few of them picking through the green dry needles that have fallen on the still green lawn. The cardinals haven’t yet come to the bird feeder. Having grown up in the woods I really should know birds better and the songs they sing but sadly I know the easy ones, the ones who stand out: robins, blue birds, bluejays, barn swallows, barn owls, cardinals, mallards. The only birds who’ve come to the bird feeders so far are similar in size and different shades of brown, indistinct different birds. My brother can hear a bird and know what kind it is. Just recently I looked at a cardinal and heard it sing. “Oh that’s who you are,” I said.

Yesterday I began to walk by the pond planning to walk through the woods as the sun was going down and I saw two wild turkeys below the breast going at their own pace and not afraid of me. Usually when I see wild turkeys, they disappear as quickly as I see them, there and then poof! they’re gone—just a branch of low-lying leaves where the turkeys were. Like magic. These two turkeys—young Jakes my brother would call them later—where different colors, a brown one just like it should be, and a white one, which I’d never seen before, white with black mottled wings that it spread and ruffled from time to time.

I suspected they came from across the road, on the other side of 322 where the billionaire lives who bought up the mountainside and scarred it with a mansion, a horse stable with marble floors —I was told—and a huge closed iron gate that keeps all but guests and workers from entering into the estate. Christmas lights that seem out of place still hang there shining red along this mountain stretch of highway with nothing for miles but trees and them.

When I returned from my walk, I was surprised to see the white turkey approaching the bird feeder. Because I was standing there it seemed to be running at me. How did it know the bird feeder was there? They say turkeys are stupid but this one knew where the food was scrounging around the ground looking for seeds that had fallen from the mouths of the indistinct brown birds above.

It nervously strutted back and forth. “Where is the other turkey?” I asked my brother who had come to stand by me. It was getting dark and Scott suspected the other one had already roosted up in some tree maybe down in the swamp. Why hadn’t this one?

“I don’t think it can fly? Maybe a car almost hit it or a dog attacked it,” Scott said.

I wasn’t sure about that. It seemed to me that the turkey would be in worse shape than it appeared to be spreading its wings and ruffling its feathers; it looked at a branch in the hemlock and looked as though it wanted to fly up there, but it didn’t. The turkey ran toward the highway and my brother ran around the house and stood in its way. The evening traffic along 322 was passing by rapidly both ways deadly with their headlights flashing. The turkey ran to the back of the house again and my brother followed it down toward the swamp where he finally worried it up to a low branch for its night roost. My brother, whom I suspect voted for Trump—we haven’t talked about it—may not have much compassion for some people, but he does care about turkeys, and that is something. We stood there in the last of the sunlight together.

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Sunset. South Mountain

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January 15

“We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t really matter with me now because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody I’d like to live a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He has allowed me to go to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. Mine eyes have seen the coming of the glory of the Lord.”

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