Merry Christmas and Happy New Year's to one and all in Swanville! Work continues to make writing this column difficult, but here it is at least, at the close, and opening, of the years. Everyone I have talked to this week has had a remarkably nice and quiet Christmas. With the exception of the usual complaints about dealing with snow removal, and icy roads in the wee hours of the morning commute, they are thankful for the peaceful and satisfying week of holidays they have enjoyed.
I joke about not having much to write about, and things haven't changed much this past few months. You should all be aware that it is time to license your dogs with the Town. Late fees will be applied unless you get there before the end of January. I also joke about "the little birdies," not because birds aren't a lovely part of God's creation, but because while I enjoy birdwatching, I wonder if it is not so exciting for some of you Swanvillians. But birders are also dedicated readers, and I am bursting to share the news. I was very excited this morning to see two male Ring-necked Pheasants right here in Swanville! I haven't ever seen them east of the border of New York state. And if there were two males, there must be more females! Or maybe, they just escaped from a hunter who raises his own game? In any event, they are gorgeous. I am excited to report this as well, because I sadly was not visited by any of the usual or even the rare small birds I get here. No indigo buntings, no snowflake birds, no finches (except for goldfinches), barely a sparrow or a mourning dove. I've watched and seen nothing this year but starlings, an occasional redwinged blackbird, bald eagles, turkey vultures, turkeys, loons, seagulls, great blue herons, and a very few robins. Mostly just big birds. Only in the last month have I seen a pair of bluejays and cardinals. I remark on this because, when I was a kid, there were birds everywhere. You couldn't look out on your own small back yard without, not just hearing, but seeing birds flitting everywhere about. This year, like missing bees in the flowers, I didn't see the trees bursting with bird life. No orioles, no cat birds, no woodcocks, no lesser flycatchers, no grossbeaks, or purple finches, or wilson's finches, or crowned kinglets. I drove from Concord, NH, to Burlington, VT, this summer and saw only five birds. I'd love to know what MOFGA and Tom Seymour think about this, or if they've noticed the same trend.
Movie recommendation of the week: Les Miserables, but only if you like Broadway musicals. While it was very good, I am still very attached to Liam Neeson's dramatic representation of the classic book by Victor Hugo.
If you like to read, I urge you to consider that Les Miserables is only one of a trilogy of books by Hugo. It dealt with the theme of man vs. society. The Hunchback of NotreDame is man vs. religion. The third book, by far the biggest surprise to me—I had no idea it existed—was The Toilers of the Sea, whose theme is man vs. nature. There are moments in that book that could only have been written by and eyewitness. Breathtaking.
Happy New Year!