The weight of winter silence presses on my ears. Heavy snowflakes drape tree limbs, topple seed heads and cover squirrel nests with a crystalline blanket. Falling snow absorbs the whir of auto engines, which pass almost noiselessly down the street. Even the incessant hum of the airport is muffled.
Suddenly, in the snowy hush a northern cardinal sings: “What cheer-cheer-cheer-cheer.” He repeats his joyful song four times and falls silent. His call momentarily illuminates the quiet. His red brilliance punctuates the black, gray and white of a January snowfall.
It is the first time I’ve heard a cardinal sing since last summer. In Minnesota, they typically begin singing in mid-January and will soon renew pair bonds and breeding territories. I welcome his upbeat melody that, along with the lengthening daylight, signals another milestone on the journey to spring.