Eavesdropping on Februarys Deserted Stage
by Audrey Y. Scharmen
Here in winter the creek outside my window is polished cobalt. An incoming tide has left a wake of open water where buffleheads feed. The clownish little ducks are toysize, satiny white and black. They are skittish and rightfully so as suddenly an eagle appears, its great wings spread to full length in an awesome display of power as it dips into their midst. The agile ducks react quickly, diving under the dark surface, and the eagle misses his mark.
This is a time of grayness with bitter winds sharp as the eagles talons. The feeder outside my window is immediately deserted in the shadow of the predator. The feathers of a blue jay, left by a kestrel who hunts daily at dawn in my yard, drifts about the dun-colored grass, and the eagle vanishes over the treetops. The golden waxwings will not return today, nor the bluebirds that fed with them.
I scan the opposite shore for touches of color. There are none. But in the sepia woodland the summer houses emerge. In other seasons, they are barely visible in a shroud of deep foliage. Now they are revealed in all their splendor. I note, as well, the bare bones of yet another new one rising from a raw scar amid the leafless trees.
They are enormous dwellings, the habitat of those seduced by summer into retirement on the creek shore. Now in this inhospitable season, they are unoccupied. This is a rural area where nothing much happens in winter. Radio reception consists of a choice of country or classical static. Cell phones stutter and blur, and cable is unstable. And there is snow. Thus folks grow restless here and, like migrant birds, fly off to their homes in other places, returning only sporadically to the creek.
The lonely houses are fascinating. They have all the new-age trappings of well-loved abodes except for people. Sophisticated electrical systems are cleverly designed to discourage intruders. Lights flash on at dusk, the many ells and gables illuminated in varied sequence. Blue light of television screens flickers through uncurtained windows, and electric candles adorn windowsills on some nights as if an elegant party is in progress. But no one is there.
When the first snow comes to define the topography, the graceful contours and frosted conifers, and the creek lies solidly blanketed in white, the blue shadows of dusk rescue this die-hard resident of all seasons from monochromatic oblivion. The opposite shore seems a stage then, a kind of Twilight Zone production replete with intriguing props and ghostly drama. The actors can only be imagined as the deserted MacMansions become Jay Gatsbys place, postwar Tara, the Bates Motel and Manderley.
When midnight arrives, blue lights and golden dim in perfect unison, the darkened houses retreat into the skeletal trees and another beautifully gloomy gray day ends here on a winter shore where nothing much ever happens
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