Outside my study window, the morning sun casts patterns of pointed leaves upon those beneath them and prickle-shades the trunks of the summer snowflake viburnum. In one of the niches still broods the cardinal in her twiggy nest. It’s been days of stillness, at times, her feathered head moving from side to side with the regularity of an oscillator. With her, I watch and wait for new life.

Whoops! Something shakes one of the trunks, its intrusion feels violent. Among the leaves and spent blossoms, a gray squirrel flickers up the trunk toward the nest. Within the cover of more leaves blur two forms: the squirrel and the cardinal, jettisoned into the air and disappear—no evidence of their remains on the mulched mound beneath the shrub.

I wait for I know not what.

In the next moment, reappears the cardinal flying toward the shrub, until repositioning herself atop the nest. The quiet resumes.