My hillside extends between the asphalt five or six stories down and a street four or five stories up. At the moment it is a subtle but complex composition in brown and gray made up of the stone face of the West Hills, the almost-bare branches of my maples, and dead vines of climbing entities including blackberries, English ivy, and a four- or five-leaflet green climber whose name I have yet to track down. Looking out at this wintery collection, occasionally I catch a glimpse of a small bird or two flitting from branch to vine to stone. They are very difficult to see either before or after the flit. The only way I know they're there is their* swift, straight, semi-horizontal motion -- all the other shapes on the hillside are twisty vines or straight, upward trunks.
At the top of my hillside are tangly branches which seem too big to be bushes and too gnarly to be trees. They grow up from the base of the concrete that supports the street and are what I thought should have kept the infamous orange box from falling to where it polluted my outlook.
And just now in those tangly branches, I saw a family of squirrels, at least three of them, exploring the territory, whipping their furry tails expressively about. I have never seen squirrels here before, and I'm curious how (and why) three of them ran across the street to visit my hillside. It was a life-threatening excursion. The street doesn't have a lot of traffic, but cars and delivery trucks hum by often enough that one would think squirrels would have the sense to stay in the maples and pines I can see on the far side. Maybe the gnarly branches hold some very late season berries or cones or seeds that are a welcome addition to a squirrel's January cuisine.
I can't see any of them now. But it's fairly dense up there. They could be hunkered down in the underbrush gnawing on whatever made the trek across the street seem worthwhile. Three of them! I'll have to keep an eye out.
*By golly, I do believe that is the most dense constellation of variations on words pronounced like "thair" I've ever written.