Howlin’ mad


Today’s 4:45 a.m. wake up music was courtesy of a male northern cardinal. Northern cardinals are the opera singers of the bird world. They are rather small birds and look like the first barely noticeable breeze would blow them away much like a discarded fast food napkin. I have mentioned before how their songs can carry. Listening to one is similar to watching a reality singing show on television. One slightly built contestant comes out looking like she or he is barely capable of speaking louder than a whisper and then performs a song with unexpected power and ease. No matter how many times one experiences that performance, it is still amazing. A cardinal will put everything into its song, bobbing up and down with each tone, ensuring that song carries distantly.

Contrast today’s happy song with the sound the Twins Cities heard most of Sunday afternoon into Monday morning. Another round of unseasonably cold weather began its assault early in the afternoon after we enjoyed a comparatively balmy Friday and Saturday. Winter winds are not unusual, but Sunday’s blast was quite different. The wind started out with a low, guttural growl warning us that something unpleasant was imminent. The growl soon became a mad howl, and the wind-driven snow stung when striking exposed skin. It was punishment for enjoying a break from the cold, like a child having a major temper tantrum in a quiet public place; how dare anyone find relief from winter’s clutches!

The cardinal’s song was a defiant symbol of hope, that winter’s grip would soon release, and that the foot of snow on the ground will soon melt transforming the vista from white to green. It was -17°F (-27°C) this morning when I noticed the sound, and I had to chuckle. People have ventured out only when necessary this month, but today we hear “CHEER! CHEER! CHEER!” from a small creature sitting high atop a denuded tree and fully exposed to the biting cold. Today was not nearly as windy as Sunday and the sun shone brightly. At my latitude, we are gaining about 2½ minutes of daylight per day as the calendar progresses to spring. In the United States, Daylight Saving Time begins in less than five weeks, and the halfway point of winter is Sunday. Hope springs eternal and we hope spring arrives on time or, better yet, early.

We all go through rough stretches where it seems like the Universe behaves like Sunday’s wind. Seemingly unrelated events provide the growl, and misfortunes become the howling mad wind threatening to destroy our hopes and sting us with despair. Our situations do eventually get better. Pay close attention, and like the cardinal’s song from this morning, you will find a sign. Family and friends are a wonderful source of comfort and strength during adverse times. Perhaps you are the one who helps someone regain hope and rebuild the strength needed to persevere.

For those of you with a special someone close by, give that person a warm and meaningful hug. If he or she is having a bright and sunny day, your hug will improve it even more. Like the cardinal tells us, spread some “CHEER! CHEER! CHEER!” to your friends and family even if they might be howling mad at the world. The smiles you receive in return will warm you even on the coldest day. Unlike the flu, your compassion is something worth going viral!

Howlin' mad
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Howlin' mad
When even the wind sounds angry, a Northern Cardinal during a bitter cold stretch of weather provides hope that spring arrives soon.

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