I watch a cardinal peck for garden seeds beneath the snow, despite his redness, despite knowing somewhere overhead hawks circle. I’m reminded of my winter obsession with two bloody world wars, devouring books, movies, and my father the cryptologist’s 1942 war journal. I’m surprised at the waves of feelings that surge up like troops inside me: troops named The Great Generation, and We Dig In and Never Learn, and Hide Under your Desk from the Nuclear Bomb. There was once a time when winter could stop soldiers.
The very red cardinal pecks and looks around, pecks and looks around in his 360-degree predator-scan way. Somewhere, beyond sight, the hawk is running his own small prey positioning system, improved by the local conditions of red bird in snow. I think of my father, of Bletchley Park code breakers, and the French Underground; I think of the Luftwaffe, and every High Command, terrorist cells worldwide, and cellphones in Pakistani caves – all of us tracking and fearing the land, sea, and the terrible skies. How we dig in and never learn. Except in offline moments when one of us lifts a baby or kisses a parent goodbye.
[Recommended world war books & media (among the many): The Guns of August, Barbara Tuchman; The Storm of War, Andrew Roberts; 1914 (a novel), Jean Echenoz; The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje. Grand Illusion (a film) by Jean Renoir. Gallipoli (a film) by Peter Weir.]