The houses in my neighborhood are made of stone. Extravagant, you might think, until you put a spade into the ground and you wrestle out 3 Pennsylvania field stones – every time. Build with the materials on hand, right? There are benefits to having a stone house. My windowsills are a foot deep, which makes for lovely decorating space when I manage to clear them of all the kids’ school papers and library books. My house holds its temperature like a champ – when the nights are still cool in spring and early summer, the house stays 10 degrees cooler than the weather outside. My walls would withstand any huffing and puffing the big bad wolf could throw at it.
One problem though. The houses in my neighborhood are all grayish brown. And we’re close together, so my windows frame up the drab, grayish brown stone walls of the houses next door. In the hope of luring some kind color into view, I placed a finch feeder just outside my dining room window. I fielded all kinds of grief from the husband last weekend while I was scrubbing out the old bird food at the kitchen sink. Something about disgusting mess and disease. I don’t know exactly. I wasn’t listening too closely. But today my scrubbing paid off. The first goldfinch of the season. Except he wasn’t gold. He exemplified the Cornell Lab of Ornothology’s description of a winter goldfinch: “Winter birds are drab, unstreaked brown, with blackish wings and two pale wingbars.”
Why should I be excited about a drab, unstreaked brown bird? Certainly I’ve got an abundance of that color everywhere I look. I’m excited because I know what’s about to happen. Goldfinches molt twice a year. In late summer, they shed their gold to blend in with our current landscape (did I mention it’s kind of gray around here?). In late winter, that drab unstreaked brown makes way for the most brilliant yellow – its like they turn into flitting, bouncing, tweeting little daffodils. He was brown today, but every day, there will be a little more yellow. Here’s what we have to look forward to in just a few weeks:
So I’m excited about my new lunch companion. He’ll eat his seeds, I’ll eat whatever was leftover from last night’s dinner. He’ll turn yellow, I’ll turn less moody. Hallelujah, spring is coming.