The Grouse Hen’s Christmas

Michael Fralich

 It had snowed the night before. It was a light fluffy snow. It gently settled onto the earth filling in the crevices and depressions in the forest floor. It had left a thick insulating blanket over the landscape. 

    The grouse had taken refuge in the lee of a familiar poplar. Except for the occasional fluffing of her feathers she did not stir all night. She knew somehow that she was not in danger of being trapped by a heavy wet snow. This airy blanket could cover her completely and she would be fine.

    It had been an easy fall with mild temperatures and plenty of food. Her clutch of chicks were grown and gone. She would spend a solitary winter. She would forage and rest until spring when the cycle would begin anew with the drumming of the cocks and mating.

    For now her life was simple. There were no chicks to protect and feed. There were no males vying for her favor. The absence of these complicating factors added to her quiet rest.

    The snow stopped sometime during the night. The morning dawned bright and clear. With a sudden rush of energy she burst from her bed. The wind picked up the crystalline snow scattered by her exit. It swirled around her. The sun caught the air born prisms. It was as if there were thousands of tiny diamonds caught in flight.

    She flew to an oft-used perch in the same poplar that had sheltered her in the night. With typical animal patience she sat a long time surveying her world before hunger motivated her to move. 

    It mattered not to her that today was Christmas. She knew a broader less specific calendar. In her own way however she was thankful for her good fortune. But no more this day than any other.

    She had had three successful seasons of chick rearing. There was plenty of forage. Owls and hawks had let her be. She was fulfilling her purpose in life. In her world without words for this feeling, she was content.