Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Sunday Stroll & A Woodpecker...

Sunday was Mother’s Day. I am not a mother. No kids. Over the last several years I have had the random friend ask me if I want to have children. My answer is ‘no’. That window closed in my mid-30’s. Let me correct myself there…I ‘closed’ that window in my mid-30’s. Having children is a huge commitment. Mentally, emotionally, financially…in every way possible. I am on the verge of turning 49 this year, and I have had a couple of people ask me if I’m going to have a baby now. Again, no. I am not equipped to raise a child these days. Not only would the pregnancy be hard on me physically (my various ailments), but on that same level I don’t think it would be fair to a child for me to have one now. If nature would allow me to get pregnant, and have a healthy baby, I wouldn’t be able to participate in their life like I once could. Hell, I would be in my upper-60’s when they graduated high school. I would want to be extremely involved and present in their life. Support them in their endeavors. At my age that would be difficult.

I spent a portion of Mother’s Day at work. It was rather busy, but I expected it to be. I spend the bulk of my time as a cashier, so I witnessed the last minute purchases of a number of fathers, husbands, and children wanting to make their wives/mother’s day special. In the craft store I work in we have a large floral department. We carry a wide variety of faux flora, and much of it is really pretty…for fake flowers. Among the customers were a number of customers around my age and older who were buying flowers for their mothers. Mothers that had passed. The flowers were meant to help carry their thoughts of their mothers through the veil. To impart their feelings of love, and to let their moms know that they are not forgotten. When one reaches a ‘certain’ age, I think individual mortality comes into mental play. One connection had when one is young graduates to a connection when one is older. The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel looms closer, so the connection with parents who have passed is rekindled on a foundation of mortality. We all carry memories of family and those close to us, but when we get older we think about life in a different way. Perspective shifts. Those flowers purchased on Mother’s Day acknowledge that shift.

After work I did what I usually do, which is spend a bit of time unwinding. After taking some time to decompress, I decided to do something that I haven’t been doing enough of as of late. Going for a stroll. It was a lovely day out. Relatively warm with a breeze. It was also at the point where the afternoon was giving way to the evening, so it wasn’t too bright. Very relaxing, and my preferred light level for my flash-less photos.

As I walked down the sidewalk leading from our front door, I could hear the sound of hammering.  What I perceived to be hammering, anyway. There are handy men around from time to time, taking care of odd jobs for my neighbors, so I assumed it was one of them. Then I remembered that it was Sunday, the universal day off for most.

I set a trajectory for the picnic table on the far side of the pond. My shortest path there took me across the grass area that surrounds the pool. The hammering sound got louder with each step I took, and seemed to be coming from a big green tree off to my right (in the above photo, it’s the tree on the right). I quietly walked to the tree, and ducked around some hanging moss to walk beneath the branches. I first heard fluttering, and that was followed by a rather large bird that flew down to rest on a low branch. I then heard some quick hammering, followed by more fluttering. The strong, continual hammering I had heard from before was higher up in the tree. Not one, but two woodpeckers were hard at work. One above, and one now in front of me. Fumbling with my camera, I tried to snap a decent photo of the bird on the lower branch. I would move a little to get it in sight, and it would quickly hop out of position making me have to adjust mine. This little game ended when it spread its sizable wings and flew off. 

The loud pounding from on high was pretty constant. I turned my attention to the woodpecker hammering away at the top of the tree. Luckily, the branches of the tree are spread in a way that makes seeing the top easy. I could clearly see the bird, its head bobbing up and down as it forcefully struck the wood and bark. A chunk of tree would fall here and there, a couple of pieces narrowly missing me. When I think of a woodpecker, the first image that springs to mind is “Woody the Woodpecker”, star of cartoons from the 1940’s. As for actual woodpeckers, this sighting was my first. In the past I have heard them from a distance, but have never been in a proximity that allowed me to see one. Until this particular Sunday. I became determined to capture an image of him/her.

(To listen to the video, pause the music on the player located at the bottom of the blog page.)
I first tried to capture a still photo. There was an extremely low probability that I would be able to get a decent shot as I didn’t have the tripod with me, and a camera in my hands is definitely not a ‘steady cam’. After snapping a couple of fuzzy images, I decided to try a different tack. Video. As quietly as I could, I moved around to the opposite side of the tree’s trunk, and found a spot where the setting sun cast a good amount of sunlight on the winged worker. ‘He’ continued to hammer away, pausing here and there to feast…I decided that he appeared to be looking for food. Large chunks of bark covered wood continued to be cast off. The bright streaming light made the woodpecker quite visible to my camera lens, and I was able to make out the bright red crest of its head. It looked like it was wearing a faux hawk. Which reminded me of ‘Woody’. The sound on the video above does not show the hammering to be as loud as it actually was. In person it had the firm thud of a hammer head with that echo-y quality noises of that kind have.

Once I was able to view the video on my computer, I could really see the red on its head. I decided to do some Googling to find out exactly what kind of woodpecker it was. My search was a quick one. The rather large bird is known as a Pileated (crested) Woodpecker, and they are known to get between 16 and 19 inches in length. They are fairly common in many parts of the US. My assumption that he was pecking for food may not be far off the mark. As far as protein, they are known to like beetle larvae of a wood boring variety, and carpenter ants. They also like nuts and berries. They are known to make multiple entranced, large nests in dead trees. The tree  this woodpecker was pecking was quite alive. Once I saw the close-up images of the Pileated Woodpecker, I could see Woody’s resemblance.

I continued on my stroll. Had an odd encounter with a young boy (looked to be around 10 years old) who was kicking around a soccer ball and a football. I said ‘hi’ to him, but he didn’t even give me a glance. Just continued kicking the balls. Got to the picnic table. As peaceful as ever. I acknowledged the path leading into the wooded area skirting the marsh. Every time I visit the picnic table I give a nod to the path. One day I’ll venture down it, and see where it leads.

As I retraced my steps back home, I didn’t encounter the boy again. Guess he got tired of kicking balls to himself. As is the usual around that time, the calm breezes carried muffled voices out to me. Voices coupled with the bustle and clatter of dinner being prepared. The only member of the living I met on my way home was a cat. He seemed fairly calm, and at first meeting didn’t seem to be effected by my presence. I tried to snap his picture, but he proved to be a tad elusive. He would let me get close, but not too close. Of the few pictures I took, the one above is the least fuzzed out of the lot.

I arrived home feeling calmer and refreshed. Communing with nature, and taking pictures…sublime.

No comments:

Post a Comment