Friday, July 9, 2010

Last night I got a conjunction of circumstances you could read something into.  I looked up from my reading to find a red-bellied woodpecker (oh, the naming of birds, for he has no red on his belly) hanging onto the feeder, which has been given a designated woodpecker mix for a week now, eating hard.  That’s how they do eat with that long, sharp bill, designed for probing bark.

The bird was not in the little bird book we keep there.  I wandered the house until I found in my study the field guide, a much more inclusive bird book, that gave me his name.  The ID was solid: a male, with the long bright cap they have.  They go 9 - 10 ½ inches long, a handsome piece of bird.  They are described as having a zebra back.

It must have been while I was hunting the book that Susan left the orchid at the door.  You don’t leave orchids sitting around in just any weather, but it was still about 80 degrees and humid, threatening rain - just what an orchid likes.  Susan is visiting from out of town and had written that she wanted to get together.  The card on the orchid said that she has a cold, and that’s the one thing she doesn’t want to give me.  So here’s another orchid.  That gives me a nice little orchid farm, two big ones and a healthy little one.  It seems to be fairly hard to kill an orchid, as long as you don’t overwater them.     The one she gave me last year has done well, and is blooming again.

The squirrel at the feeder was cute for a while.  Now I am tired of him.  I want that juvenile cardinal back, to make sure that’s what it was.  And what happened to the blue jay?  The goldfinches don’t like that particular feeder, and the woodpecker seed is much too big for them.  They should like the Niger thistle in the adjacent feeder, but they don’t. The squirrel seems to discourage everything else.

The squirrel is insatiable.   Tom comments that he is a self-limiting problem.  I thought about that.  The squirrel(s) will eventually get too darn fat to jump from the side of the house to the feeder, or go down face-first off the roof.  Thus an equilibrium will set in, in which the squirrels sit obese on the ground and eat acorns like they should and lose some weight, and the feeder is visited by the birds of my choice.

“Self-limiting problem” is one of those fundamental laws of physics, like equilibrium.  Like the humidity that has been hanging in the air.  The air can only hold so much water; then it gathers and falls.  This is happening right now beyond my window.  Individual leaves on the Carters’ bush bounce and shine wet.  Maybe the rain will let loose, and we’ll all feel better.  Or maybe this cold front will pass on.  Either way an equilibrium of sorts has been restored, the way your heart feels healed by a generous, unexpected gift and the sighting of a beautiful bird taking what you have to offer.
[image:  male Red-bellied woodpecker, photo freely given by Ken Thomas]


  1. Thank you for writing "a handsome piece of bird."

  2. I saw your chair inside the window. It was empty. But it felt good being this close.

    I have story. I went to the neighborhood clean up today. Greg who oversees the rain garden was there guiding us in maintenance. He said he'd come to the garden early in the morning recently to work and a fawn was asleep, snug, in the middle. She woke and scurried away.

    I looked for the fox you see sometimes in your yard. Not this time.


  3. Thank you, Readers. Your comments keep me feeling I exist outside this house.

  4. lovely bird post, such a finely crafted log of the small things that make up the day. and you have to wonder about birders. why is a purple finch red?

    and for some reason, the line about the squirrel resonates deeply with me. "Now I am tired of him." There is a richness of teaching in this line for me, that relates to so many things we see and do in life, people, places and things.

  5. I've missed the emails I used to get from your cat, I don't think the current one. When Gini told me you had a blog, I was happy to find it and read again your thoughts and experiences.

    The breeding male red bellied woodpeckers do have a bright red area on their lower belly. I can see it when they hang on the peanut feeder with their bellies facing me.

    Judith Lynne