Everywhere else, in every other place where the wide sky reaches, the background is still blue, the black branches spread out on a flat plane as if cut from construction paper, as if pasted in delicate tracery on an azure scrim. The pure, blinding blue that reaches from treetop to treetop in the east is the only hint that this is not a sepia world made entirely of brown grass and rustling beech leaves, pale as dawn light, and the dormant hydrangea’s dry ghost petals and the white scaling of the gray sycamore.
Oh, the earth has faded, but the sky will not give up its hue even when it must, doubling down in the west with reds and oranges and yellows. It catches in the bare branches of the sugar maple and clothes it in a fleeting dream of autumn, all pink and auburn and gold. And then the cardinal perched near the top of the tree bursts into flame, into a radiance it could not even imagine, and for that moment nothing matters at all—not the still soil nor the clattering branches nor the way this redbird will fall to the ground in time, a cold stone, and I too will grow cold, and all my line.
Never mind. Mind only this tree in winter and this redbird, this tiny god, all fiery light leading to him and gathered in him, this lord of the sunset, this greeter of the coming dark.