caducous (kuh-DOO-Kuss), adjective

Transitory; short-lived; perishable.

I don’t have to look outside to know if it has snowed or not. The sweet echo of avalanche bombs rumbling through the mountains tells me how the last storm has settled. What must the animals of the Sierra Mountains think of this caducous ruckus? Chattering squirrels coo their young back into hibernation, burrowing bears roll over in anxiety. I’m not even sure the birds that linger through the snow ever sleep for they are always ready at every sign of springtime, peaking through the trees, chirping away for all to hear.

“This is it,” they say. “I’m certain that this time, it really is spring!” The chatter of one jay to the next leaps from tree to tree through canyon after canyon, until I imagine one jay reports back that no, this is not spring. This is just one more sunny day of winter where the avalanche crew is bombing away to ready the mountain for hordes of skiers.

“I wish they would find a quieter way to do that,” agree all the birds as they chirp me awake.

The songbirds show themselves more tentatively. Either they cannot endure the cold, cannot risk poking their beaks out to see if springtime truly has come, or they are simply smarter than the loudmouthed bluejays that regretfully moved into the tree next door. When I hear a melody cut through the morning air singing about cheeseburgers and the like, I won’t have to get out of bed to know what season has arrived. Bluejay, like boys crying wolf, have no idea when it’s time to come out or not. But songbirds, sure as a sign of daffodils poking through the snow, determined that it is their time, risk a late May snowstorm to insist we stay on schedule.

While the songbirds bide their time and jays rasp their throats in preemptive excitement that summer may be near, the rest of the animals wait, covered by the wet and rugid winter. What effect does avalanche bombs have on the rest of the forest? Are hibernating animals as accustomed to them as we are? Do they sigh and roll over, a tiny smile inching across their lazy faces, thinking “ten more minutes then I’ll get up and warm up my boots. Big breakfast. Today will be epic”?

Or does every single boom reverberating through the mountains tense their muscles after all these years of living here. Do they wonder what that horribly unnatural sound is and why it doesn’t seem to be getting closer. Perhaps the bears are in such heavy sleeps that the roof above their cave shakes a little dust from the rafters and lulls them into a deeper place. Perhaps avalanche bombings to bears have become as natural of an occurrence as sifting through garbage at the end of a summer’s day. Perhaps they mark it on their calendars just as they know that my neighborhood’s garbage day is Wednesday. No use heading to Blackwood if it’s not Wednesday. Big paws cover tiny black eyeballs and say,”Go back to sleep honey, it’s not time to wake up yet. That’s just the people down the mountain trying to control the snow even when they can’t.”


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