Creature Thoughts: January 2021

Song Of Winter, Song Of Spring

January. The month is named for Janus, the Roman deity of endings and beginnings, of portals and transitions. Janus is often depicted as having two faces: one looking into the past, and the other into the future. While one can look on this as the depiction of a visionary, it’s also the origin of the term “two-faced,” which is now construed to mean a hypocritical person. I think this January in particular, after the year we all have had, that second connotation may carry more weight than usual.

January has always been a difficult month for animals, human and otherwise. People who suffer with winter depression often find this the hardest month, because as dark and cold as January can be, there is still a long stretch of winter ahead. In times of yore, when the only source of food was what we produced ourselves, this time of year meant that people had to carefully meter out their stores, so that what was put up in root cellars and preserved in jars would last them until the spring.

Animals, too, have a rough time in the winter months. Many of our little wild birds, for instance, struggle through the cold and snow. As capable as they are, some which overwinter in northern climates will not see the spring. We can help our wild bird friends along by providing seeds, fruits, and suet in the winter months. Even with our help, the little ones must be tough and determined to survive.

Despite its challenges, one of January’s faces does look ahead. Even the most pessimistic cannot deny that, eventually, spring will come. Those little birds, so tough and resilient, still sing in the treetops, knowing that snow-covered grounds will soon produce green shoots, and the bare branches will bud. No matter how difficult the struggle, no matter how cold and dark the nights, the birds continue to move toward that brighter day, one song at a time.

I know that many of you have had hard times in the last year. You have struggled with illness, in both your animal and human loved ones, and you have suffered deep loss. You’ve faced worries of sorts that, a few years ago, wouldn’t have seemed possible. You step into the new year staring down a Janus which is about as two-faced as they come.

I hope, however, that you can still listen for the birdsong. Stand in the crisp, clear, cold, with your eyes closed, for just a moment, and open your heart. Hear the distant trill, the chirrup, and the warble, and know from the depths of your soul that you are hearing the promise of spring.

I’ll be listening with you.