By guest author Vol Lindsey. 08/20/19 Cardinal (The color of love) They had been coming around all summer punctuating the green canopy of this great white oak just beyond my second story deck. He was brilliant as a splash of fire when he turned his masquerade face to watch her lite on nearby twigs and limbs. She wore dusky pink instead of red, a flirt she was, but smart enough to know seduction was the labor of any man worth a lifetime singing from the evening tops of trees. They seemed to know I loved their play, flitting into the feeder I made for them while I sat back to watch. They like safflower, and cracked corn, but sunflower seeds seem to make their day. Sometimes he would take kernels to feed her with sweet birdie kisses and sing my morning awake with the coffee I used to help brave the gnats and mosquitos. Did you know? Cardinals mate for life, happy to raise squeeky babies in their high-rise apartments. Their story was a novel I watched unfold from spring flowers through a humid July and into the blaze of August. This morning I went outside to see what the new day had brought, and there she was, a little mound of feathers, rustling gentle in the breeze, her head resting on a little dais of broken wood at the foot of a window I had cleaned to invisibility yesterday afternoon. In the picture-book of images indelibly printed in the pages of myself is this new one, poignant and bitter, and oh, so sweet. But there is something else; in the off season, cardinals tend to flock together because so many die in winter. It is there, in the ice and snow, that love is often born again.