Sunday, May 29, 2011

Call Of The Wild

It's late in the day on a Friday afternoon. The sky is dark with dense black clouds. The air is heavy, almost wet. The woods are cloaked in gloomy shades of gray, the usual birds aren't serenading me with their songs. No chickadee-dee-dee, no warbling of robins. Not even the caw of a crow. There's an unnatural stillness, something oppressive. Something I can't quite put my finger on. I am struck by a sense that something is about to happen.

I know we're expecting severe thunderstorms again. From the looks of the sky, they could start any time now, so I hurry up the steps to the deck. I want to be indoors when they happen. This year the rain has been accompanied by golf ball sized hail. I've seen the damage on cars that size hail creates, I'd prefer not to feel that on my skin.

I'm just putting the key in the lock when the stillness is broken by this:

I know it's right behind me. I whirl around just in time to see a flash of red as he wings his way to the maple tree in my yard. He lights on a branch where I can see him and calls out again.
It's the first time I've gotten a look at him. I can usually hear him tapping, sometimes he does so on my home. I've never managed to see him as clearly as I saw him on Friday afternoon. He's usually just a flash of red against the green of the trees.

He moved back against the tree trunk and I walked through my door just as the first drops of rain fell. No thunder or lightening, just rain and the eerie sound of a Pileated Woodpecker announcing his presence to the other silent residents of the woods. Take heed, I am here, and here I will stay.


  1. Nicely written.
    I used to have a woodpecker at my old neighborhood, I think they enjoyed the trees and the telephone poles.

  2. Skinny,

    When it's dark and gloomy here the sound of the woodpecker can be really creepy. I tried to create, with words, a little of that atmosphere.

    I never realized how big a bird it is, larger than a crow. The woods is full of all kind of birds and they can be a joy to listen to in the morning, over coffee. Never hear the woodpecker until all else has quieted down.

  3. While I was still in the South Carolina National Guard I spent a lot of time at nearby Fort Jackson on drill weekends. I found it ironic that I saw whole squadrons of woodpeckers among the areas we played war but none among the peaceful suburbs that spread around Columbia like a cancer.

    Great post and very nicely written.

  4. Beach Bum,

    I live in Central NY on a country two lane surrounded on 3 sides by woods. We've had some really violent thunderstorms here for the past month, including one tornado which we don't usually have to deal with. Friday seemed to be brewing something and I was struck by the sense of stillness. Broken only by his call.

    Sparked a bit of creativity in me.

  5. We just got some rain here this morning, which is most unusual for this time of year.

  6. I love a kid we'd camp outside or on a friends porch almost every time one would come along. :D

  7. Whit,

    Except for 1 sunny day, we've had rain here daily since some time in April. I don't remember what day we didn't have rain but I do know it had rained 19 days straight before that one day. I think we've had 19 more days of rain since.

  8. TAZ,

    I like a good thunderstorm myself. The lightening can be pretty awesome. However, I'm not liking the hail we're getting this year.

  9. woodpeckers will destroy a house - they especially love vacant/silent ones - so if you have a woodpecker problem I'd leave some noise (stereo/tv) on and it might help.

  10. ICE,

    Mr Pecker only tried the house once. He contents himself with drumming on the trees. Seems to taste better or something. Probably didn't enjoy the flavor of aluminum.