There is a window by the dining room table, and outside is the falling snow. It falls on a sprawling backyard, covered in leaves its owner never got around to raking this year, and it falls on the one pile the owner’s son raked for him. The grass under that one pile is now long dead, an unintentional by-product of big-hearted kindness.
Next to the pile is a puddle. It rained the day before the snow, rained long and hard. The puddle fills a depression to the left of a large oak tree, the largest in the sprawling yard, which seems to lean away from the puddle on account of the swaying tire swing that hangs on the opposite side. The tire is also full of water.
The snow drifts, then swirls, sometimes thick and heavy, then light, dust-like in its descent. It falls now on a buck, wearied from its work evading hunters earlier in the year, wearied from its work chasing does earlier in the month, wearied from its work fighting for what it wants—to live, and to live the next day too. It seems unconcerned for the fences, the dogs, the loud slamming doors of homes and cars that fill the worn neighborhood on this slow winter morning. Spent, the buck wanders around the winterized garden uncovering, then happily lifting it’s head to chew its own trophies-- hordes of fallen acorns the owner neglected to rake up along with the leaves.
A sudden flurry brings with it a covey of mountain quail, flying low and fast until deciding the yard outside the window looks like the perfect spot for touchdown. Maybe they saw the buck and decided it was safe. Maybe they saw the trampoline and thought it looked fun. Whatever the reason, they land, and the ground is soon a swarm of bobbing black heads, weaving in and out of broken iris stems.
The sun peeks out from behind some distant cloud, illuminating the flurries until the yard outside seems cloaked in a swarm of fireflies. Their lights extinguish suddenly with a gust that brings more gloom, but only for a moment— and then their fires are again reborn. Just then a large gray squirrel erupts from high in a neighboring tree, indignant at the buck in the owner’s yard. Leaping, scrambling, it claws its way down the trunk of a small cedar and pounces onto the frozen ground, scattering the quail. They fly for two wing-beats then land, tiny feet working furiously to slow them back down to the humor of their jerking gait. The squirrel gets as close as it dares and lets the buck know what for. The buck pays the squirrel no mind, and keeps on feeding. Dejected, the small bundle of forlorn fury surrenders his hidden treasure for the moment and retreats to a large rock near the fence to watch. He sits there torturing himself for the next half-hour before finally leaving in disgust.
The owner laughs as he takes it all in, a witness to a simple beauty, seen through a window by the dining room table, and outside is the falling snow.