Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas in Chicago

Well, it's Christmas Eve, and here in Chicago we don't have to be "dreaming" of a white Christmas -- we're having one! It's snowing here, a gentle kind of snow that will whiten the already snowy lawns in my neighborhood. I took these pictures earlier this week when we had one of those crystal snowfalls that leave icy diamonds sparkling on the already frozen ground. Looking out my kitchen window, I can see the birds scrabbling to eat the last of the seed we put out for them before it's totally covered by the new snow. Sharing their late afternoon meal are mourning doves and chickadees, black-eyed juncos and ruby-red cardinals, and of course, the ever-present house sparrows. A squirrel was eating his fill earlier when our resident hawk swooped down, intent on catching his own dinner. But the squirrel must have seen him coming; he made a leap for the little tree next to our garage and escaped in a maze of branches, forcing the hawk to make an abrupt upturn that took him winging over the garage, missing the gutter by less than an inch. The hawk will probably be back; the feeder attracts dozens of birds each day. Every evening, a rabbit makes its way from the front of the house to the backyard to glean the leftovers scattered around the covered pond. It's nesting under the evergreens that flank our front door where hopefully the hawk won't find it. So far this winter we haven't seen the two red foxes that strolled through the neighborhood all summer. I'm betting they headed for the safety of the forest preserve and the dead fallen trees there that offer some shelter to creatures their size. It's been a cold winter here so far, and that's tough on the animals that call the outdoors their home. It's equally tough on their human counterparts, the homeless men and women who are lucky if they can find a bed in a city shelter, and the down-on-their-luck unemployed folks who may have a roof over their heads, but can hardly afford to pay for heat, much less rent. for sure it'll be a tough Christmas for these people. Last week we packed over 470 bags of food at our local food pantry. By the time we were done, our shelves were stripped bare. The families who received that food have experienced the economic downturn in the worst of ways. Many have lost their jobs, some have lost their homes, and the elderly among them have often lost hope that life will ever get better. Having food on the table at Christmas seems normal for those of us fortunate to have some income. For those who come to the food pantry, a Christmas dinner is a blessing they wouldn't enjoy except for the generousity of their neighbors.

So it's Christmas in Chicago, and for most of us, there's much to be thankful for. I truly wish everyone a peace-filled and joyful Christmas season.

And if you have a few bucks left over after paying off the bills for your holiday gifts, how about donating some food to your local food pantry. The shelves will be bare this winter without your help.