The snow fell for two days straight and added inches on top of what was already thick layers from two months of winter weather. Edna hadn’t walked to the mailbox by the road for a week for fear of falling. Last month, she’d fallen and landed on ice on the back stoop, hurting her knee, when she threw out the last of the birdseed. It took a couple of weeks before she stopped limping.
Edna didn’t care about the mail. She knew what bills came when, and she knew it was mostly junk—statements from her insurance company about medication, political fliers, and travel magazines about cruise ships sailing to the Caribbean and South America. She knew that’s where the swallows, martins, and warblers had gone, flying thousands of miles because of their internal clocks, but she wouldn’t see them because she couldn’t afford a cruise.
Yesterday, Edna put on her heavy coat, gloves, and a hat and looked out the window, but she couldn’t see her flower beds with hostas and variegated liriope. When she opened the garage, she knew her Thunderbird would back over a small mound of snow that had blown against the garage door. She’d called ahead and ordered grocery items and didn’t plan to brave the grocery store parking lot because it wasn’t cleared. One of the clerks brought what little she ordered and placed the bags on the floorboard of the Thunderbird’s backseat, including the bird seed.
When the temperature rose and the sun was out, birds came out of torpor to hunt for worms, insects, berries, seeds, and resembled colorful polka dots on the white landscape. In torpor, their body’s metabolism slowed by ninety-five percent, their body temperature lowered, and energy was conserved energy until weather conditions improved, sometimes after a few hours or overnight. The birds didn’t burn as much body fat and consumed less oxygen.
If Edna didn’t drink coffee when she woke up, she felt like she was in torpor. After a light breakfast, Edna opened the back door and tossed a cup of bird seed into the yard. She then reclined her chair and half-watched a program about bird migration, covered up with a blanket, and closed her eyes. She discovered herself flying with the swallows, martins, and warblers. The views were incredible, and the sounds of the different types of birds together in the sky were symphonic.
Her daughter found her in the recliner after she hadn’t answered repeated calls, paramedics transported Edna to the hospital, and emergency room personnel thought she had heart failure. Her heart rate had slowed, her body temperature had decreased, but Edna wasn’t in torpor. She enjoyed the mountain forests, the cool waterfalls, the warm temperatures, and the bird symphony in South America, and she planned to stay.