The Birds Know

Winter is long. Snow, then snow on snow, darkness, cold, breathing the stale air of indoors too long— it wears you down after five months.

I begin to yearn for spring in February. I remember living in southern Ireland, how February brought in early spring— if the sun was out and you stood in the right building lee out of the wind you could feel it swelling your heart. But here February is the middle. Winter storms come like waves, wind tears trees down. Snow over all, damping sound, tracking through houses. On long nights when the sky is clear and the moon is pregnant with light, she lays it down across the whiteness.

Winter is a cold beauty. With the skill of a storyteller she holds spring back until the last, until you are desperate for it. And then one day winter lets go, just like that, no fanfare, no howling, just a vernal wind.

The birds know, they sing and flit in clumps, wingtips nearly touching. The blackbirds make short calls as if their voices have rusted over the winter and they grate and resist being used. Sparrows the colour of brown grass sing songs that I know from my earliest memories to mean spring. The ravens have a lookout in a tall spruce by my house and she calls a coarse warning and flies when I step outside, other black shapes lift and wing away.  Ice lets go its hold on the bank and bobs downriver almost invisible.

The hills fold into cloud, edges gone, the misty forest edge beckons me. Cows let out from their barn jump and gallop, cavorting in the dank warmth of early spring— It’s not really warm, but it’s warm enough.

Everyone knows it, spring has come, not on a designated day, but winter beggars can’t begrudge it. I feel winter’s bars loose on my chest as I walk to my shop, along the mud-rutted lane. Puddles reflect silver.



On my work bench I have fresh bronzes. I cast them yesterday, pouring the fulgent orange liquid into molds, then quenching them in water. I put my hand in the water which growls and screams as the hot investment boils into it. I pull out treasure— it filtered through my dreams onto paper then was carved in wax and now this solid undeniable thing. It will almost certainly outlive me and my children— someday some far human might find it clasping rotted leather and wonder who made it.


I’m almost to the chancy stage where I take all the disparate parts I have constructed, steel blade, leather sheath bronze parts, and put them together to make one thing.


Winter dreams, folded under her blanket of brown grass and swamp weed.

Spring cracks an eye— dog wood blushes blood red, snow pulls back to the edges of things, backs into corners, seeing it’s imminent demise. The swamp is already green.

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Jake Powning

Jake is a professional swordsmith, artist, and writer who explores the strange place where traditional culture and the land meet.


  1. Beautiful, Jake.
    Wordsmith, swordsmith.
    Here, Winter has been long and cruel – February lasted for all of March and into April, too – but on Saturday, Rima and I were able to lie on the grass at Merrivale stone row and be warm and dry, with skylarks overhead, in bliss to feel the sun warm on our skin and a breeze not full of teeth. Winter is over and has left disarray, but Spring is sweeter than any honey.
    Glory be!

  2. Thanks Tom. It does me good to think of you two sitting on the heath.

  3. Hi Mr. Jake ! Congratulacions our work. I’m resident in Brazil. See you.

  4. I love designing carving and cleaning fresh bronze or silver pieces…love creating in leather as well.
    Everything I do is in some way (usually) Celtic/Norse…ancient Euro in vibe.

    That’s why your a legend.

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