SEVERAL YEARS AGO a writer and blogger I adore, Hannah Brencher, wrote a beautiful post about the pressure she feels in our inevitable rush to Christmas. It’s a topic that is neither shocking nor eye-opening–I’ll bet you’ve felt the pounding heart, as well, as we plan, shop, list, wrap, cook, decorate, prepare.
Still Hannah went on to say something that, all this time later, is still with me. Instead of focusing on the payoff of a perfect Christmas day–instead of looking forward with such anticipation (and such high expectation) to the big stuff to come, she suggested this:
Let’s just pretend it can’t get better than this right here.
Let’s just pretend it can’t get better than this right here.
IT’S A BEAUTIFUL way to approach the season, I think, settling your heart into the hundred thousand moments of prelude. As if these are the moments, themselves, that matter most. Because it is true, wouldn’t you agree? In so many ways? Pulling from TREE BOX NUMBER TWO the worn Rudolph ornament your childhood friend’s sweet mother gave you all those years ago. Opening the mailbox to a stack of red envelopes. Finding the very most perfect little something something for someone who means the world.
Hannah’s words have come back to me time and again in these early days of December. I feel my anxiety rising and there they are, wrapping round and round me like a quilt meant to stop a chill. They remind me to slow down, to settle down, to take note.
And to smile. To simply smile, in acknowledgement of the sweet, simple moments that are the heart of this holiday season. To remember life is good, people are good, that sometimes love and joy and peace come to you in a hundred thousand tiny ways.
We’d planned it for a while, this trip to the mountains for Thanksgiving week, and we both knew it would do our souls well. It always does. There is a sweet gravity in these hills that anchors me, that sets my feet on solid ground and holds them there, working as a poultice on whatever ails me. It is the same for Tim who finds peace in a place where, as he says, the earth is just as God intended. We are mighty blessed to have this pretty spot where most everywhere we look our eyes take in North Carolina’s Black Mountains. The entire range lies before us like an accordion fold pulled open. It begins to our left, east–then spreads wide, knob to peak to gap to peak for 15 miles. It descends just in front of us via Big Butt (meant to be Butte, locals say) having intersected the Great Craggy Mountains just behind, which roll on to west.
The view this offers is spectacular, changing from month to month, hour to hour, minute to minute as the weather shifts or light passes across. We find ourselves endlessly fascinated. And deeply humbled, I will tell you that, with a profound yet grounding reminder that life goes on, that seasons change and plants and animals carry on doing what they do day after day whether we are watching or not, whether we are here or not, that it has been this way for thousands of years.
It is not difficult to feel small here, and to count that a blessing.
It is not difficult to feel all the blessings, every time you’re here.
IT’S THE SAME, I know, for folks when they make the long trek up the winding road to visit. There are so many reasons I find these to be some of the most joyful times of my life. For one, once you’ve traveled up up up the unpaved road–wondering more than once if this can possibly be right, if you’ll ever, ever get there–you find you are as removed from proper civilization as it felt you might be. It is a strange sensation when what you are used to is traffic and noise and lights and activity. You step out of the car, here, and the sound that greats you is wind. Or nothing, if it is a calm day, but for the birds or the buzzing bees if they are about. (Until I come running, that is, inevitably squealing YOU ARE HERE! with delight.) You catch your breath then catch the view and breath leaves again, it requiring every molecular space in a body to take it in. And that’s just what happens–I swear. You stand quiet on this mountain for a nanosecond and it will pull you in–no, no that’s not quite right–the mountain comes to you, is more what happens, you feel the glory and close your eyes and before you can open them no space divides, no boundary separates as you become one in the same with the beauty, all the beauty that surrounds.
It is a feeling both lovely and overwhelming, at least for me. Because at the same time you feel the beauty, you also feel wild, the native, the unrefined.
The unspun truth.
AND SO WE are here for Thanksgiving, for which I am thankful, and for which I am roasting a turkey and making dressing and my mother’s gravy (I will stir like hell) and my world famous Bourbon Cranberries. Dear friends are driving up following their own family gathering and have graciously agreed to eat Thanksgiving Round Two with us tomorrow night. I will miss having Eliza and her sweet Preston this time around but who can complain as we now live so close? And there will be football and fires and hiking (motivation pending) with just enough of a chance for snow to keep things interesting.
AND SO. WHEREVER you are, however you are marking this let’s give thanks holiday weekend, I hope it is filled with people and experiences that bring you joy, that make you feel wonder, that remind you blessings and beauty abound. And that grace will find you–always, always–grace will find you if you give it space, if you allow your soul room to breathe.
IT’S BEEN 13 weeks or so since Tim and I first had a casual conversation about listing our Bickley’s Pond home for sale, and today, as I write this, I find myself standing at my desk in a new (to us) downtown house in my new studio space–a pretty pink bedroom we’ve converted to a quiet creative spot where I can write and paint and think and dream. To my left there is a tall window that offers a nice view even if it is not of nesting bluebirds and paddling mallards. For the new place is a 1966 ranch that sits high in the back/low in the front in a hilly uptown neighborhood. My studio is positioned on the house’s front side, which means when I look out what I see is our small but perfect front yard, the raised street beyond (with its regular joggers, dog-walkers and the like), and the two homes across the way that sit close but high up–a good bit higher than ours, geographically speaking, and which actually makes for an effect I find most pleasing. The cumulation of these things: our position on this street, our place in this old neighborhood, this city that I find to be just big enough–these things in collection create warmth and comfort, something I’m just noticing now. Yes, warmth, that’s it, and comfort, sweet comfort, a kind that fits just right.
And what makes it so?
Two things come to mind as I stand here, for the first time considering it.
My upbringing in a small town, with streets just like this.
The sense that this neighborhood has history, and stories, and permanence.
WE BUILT THE HOUSE at Bickley’s Pond in 2006/2007 and moved in just in time for the economic crash. (The timing was not great, to say the least.) But what a thrill it was to choose the lot, design the floor plan, select every finish and finial. And then to watch the dream come to fruition one brick at a time, every passing milestone carrying with it the promise of the beautiful life a house built JUST FOR US would deliver.
It did not disappoint. We woke up most every morning thinking–and often saying to each other–Can you believe we get to live here? Can you believe how lucky we are. But as it inevitably would, and as it did, time moved on. Our kids grew up, and we came to the undeniable conclusion we just didn’t need the big house with the big yard with the care-taking that was required anymore. We also came to believe a “shake it up” change in our lifestyle would be a healthy thing for us both as we ventured into our 60s. And so we turned our gazes (Tim more quickly and easily than I, I must say) from the suburbs to the city, from a home-centered existence to one more focused on go-and-do activities and experiences.
IT WAS RATHER MIRACULOUS how we (AKA our realtor) found this downtown home so quickly. Because once we made the decision to sell, our house was sold in no time. We dove head-first into clearing, boxing, packing. Every fear I had about the process proved true–I was overwhelmed and anxious and overcome with emotion as day after day, hour by hour, minute by minute I excavated my life. I’m certain it did not help that I was facing my 60th birthday, but whether or not that carried inordinate weight, it was a daunting task to stare down every what was in my 60 years and then to decide is this worth carrying forward.
But that is not actually the point I am meaning to make. What I’m meaning to tell you is that in this new place, this new home, the world has filled in around us in rich and beautiful ways I did not expect. The universe has taken every hole and fear and worry and one-upped it; in fact, in spite of my deep sadness over leaving Bickley’s Pond and the sweet, precious neighbor-friends who, to us, mean the world–this move has proven not only right but important.
There is the sense of history here, as I mentioned. It’s something I find palpable. Most homes in the area were built in the early 1900s or else in the boom just after World War II. In every way it feels like a neighborhood. We have discovered there are countless friends and acquaintances who live on the winding, tree-lined streets nearby; nearly every day I get another call, email, text or flower delivery (!) from someone I know sharing his or her address, welcoming us to downtown, giving us a tip about a great restaurant or a nice walk route or a pro move when it comes to the perfect grocery shopping time. And there is this, which we hear over and over.
Did you knowI grew up on this street.
My grandparents lived over there.
We’ve been here 30 years.
They are roots that feel good to me, a small town girl who spent her youth in a home also built in 1966; who lived next door to her beloved grandmother; who walked to school and played outside and spent winter snow days sledding down Macklemore Hill with the same gang, winter after winter.
Who is mighty happy to be on this side of such a big move.
Who already feels at home in a place somewhat foreign, and at the same time remarkably, beautifully familiar.
IT IS NO coincidence, of this I am certain, that as I took five minutes this morning to flip through my recently ignored inbox, Maria Popova had sent me this via her always illuminating Sunday Brain Pickings newsletter:
What, then, of autumn — that liminal space between beauty and bleakness, foreboding and bittersweet, yet lovely in its own way? Colette, in her meditation on the splendor of autumn and the autumn of life, celebrated it as a beginning rather than a decline. But perhaps it is neither — perhaps, between its falling leaves and fading light, it is not a movement toward gain or loss but an invitation to attentive stillness and absolute presence, reminding us to cherish the beauty of life not despite its perishability but precisely because of it; because the impermanence of things — of seasons and lifetimes and galaxies and loves — is what confers preciousness and sweetness upon them.
It was a passage I needed to read as we are in a season of change, Tim and I, making the small move from one house to another, from one town to another hardly 40 minutes away.
And yet it feels monumental. And by that I should explain that I mean less the move and more the change–articulated in notes both sharp and sweet as over the past three weeks I have sifted through every moment and memory of my nearly 60 years and made a distinction between that which is worth keeping and what to kiss and let go. Add to that the boxes and bags and trunks–endless as they feel–filled with treasures from so many lifetimes: my mother’s, my father’s, my grandparent’s (four); my great-grandparents (both sides) and great aunts and uncles, all of whom placed great value in beauty and treasure and legacy.
There has been the “why on earth did I/they keep this?” easy decision, but to tell you the truth, that has been rare. Way more often, and way more difficult, is the reality that for most of these things–mine and theirs–these are the things of a lifetime that were deemed, specifically, worthy of saving. Across time, and across generations.
Popova’s newsletter has reminded me, through Colette’s words, what preciousness really is, and that as is evidenced by autumn, it is the impermanence of things that bestows upon them such loveliness.
For it is true, of course. And it makes it all the more beautiful and poignant that, for me, all this change has come in October. It has been a steeping in my own season of impermanence, this month with its “falling leaves and fading light.” It will not be long before the trucks come and I will stand on the edge to say goodbye to our pretty spot on Bickley’s Pond. I will look to the sweet mallard couple who has shared their love and loss with us, and the eagles who welcomed us here and who still come, from time to time, to check on our cove. To the bluebird house and the birdbath (which, I should tell you, is filled every afternoon with such a mess of teenage bluebirds you can’t help but laugh as LORD HAVE MERCY they do carry on).
And I will get in my loaded car and drive to Columbia to our oh-so-pretty new place. It offers its own promises, of course: close proximity to so much the city offers; a lifestyle, active and uptown. My sweet Eliza will be close by, too, the greatest gift of this change and, quite frankly, our greatest motivation. For as much as we love being here, time with her will be the new reward and, of course, the greatest of treasures.
AUTUMN IS beautiful, this liminal space. I will try to remember this as I walk through the approaching busy days. I will let the changing colors and shifting tones and the soft move to winter remind me there is nevertheless a stillness, and a way to hold myself in presence. Because that’s what life is really about, what life requires, don’t you think? This moving ahead, this coming along, season-to-season, but also the noticing. The celebrating, and the honoring.
It’s what I hope to have done with all the things, now that I write that. I hope I have considered and honored well, even when–especially when–I have loved and let go.
WE’VE BEEN CLEANING up, clearing out, readying for a change we’ve known for a while was coming. We’re empty nesters now, you see, and we simply don’t need the space. I love our home, our pretty yard, I love the vast collection of things which have come to reside with us over the course of our lives. And so I’m finding the process daunting. It’s overwhelming, really, and highly emotional. Every WHAT DO I DO WITH THIS choice feels as if it carries with it the weight of generations.
They are just things, I remind myself over and over, a thought which should bring clarity and comfort. But next comes a quick yeah, right, things my great-grandmother saved, and my grandmother saved, and my mother saved. Things which are now entrusted to me.
FOR HER PART, my daughter has little interest.
It is a truth of her generation, I think, how they place value on “having less” and “doing more.” Their lives are fuller, more flexible. They are more mobile, better able to take advantage of opportunities and experiences as they come along.
I believe it to be a good, healthy thing.
AND SO I OPEN another box. This one is filled with things that came from my mother’s house, part of a large haul we loaded up and brought here in the busy days, years ago, of emptying her home. I lift out an old high school–or is it college?–yearbook, 1951-1952, and I see tucked below a collection of letters addressed in my hand. I must have sent these to my parents, yes here’s one from camp, a few from college, several from my earliest days as a working girl living three states away. I had not remembered writing even one, and I certainly had no idea Mom was keeping the silly things, the news inside amounting to not one thing of significance. (I would have guessed I was much more profound in those days, but sadly, the letters prove otherwise.) Still I wipe away a tear, I pull them close against my chest and look to the heavens and tell my mother how much it means to me that all these years, she kept them. And in that moment I know they have done what they needed to do. They have reminded me that their existence mattered, and they have released me to now let them go.
I toss the letters to the side, and I reach into the box to discover what comes next.
WHEN I WAS A LITTLE GIRL, I learned to fish on my great-grandaddy’s boat. Every vacation we traveled from our home in Virginia to his retirement home in Florida, and my fondest memories are of being with him on the Lady Catherine (the name still makes me smile), motoring along the intracoastal waterway, bottom fishing for Drum.
I’d drop my line and let it sink. I’d hold the rod tip high, just like he taught me. I’d try to be patient. To this day I can hear him fishing behind me, his voice already holding the gravelly tenor of an old man: Come to Papa. Come to Papa. Eventually I’d get a nibble, then like I’d been taught I’d wait, watch, hoping for a greater tug on the line. When I was sure the fish was sure (or I was too excited to wait anymore) I’d set the hook–not jerking, exactly, but pulling hard, with determination and intention. Grandaddy would make his way from stern to bow and watch with great delight as the fight of that fish bent my rod toward the water. “Wind him, Cathy, wind him,” he’d say over and over, an anthem, and I would do my best to will my little girl hands to hold that rod steady, high, to turn and turn the reel’s handle, to get that fish close enough to the boat to be scooped up in his net.
THEN A FEW YEARS AGO my sweet husband and I decided it would be fun to get each other fly rods for our anniversary. I’d never fly fished–but I did love the poetry-in-motion art of it which I had experienced from afar in two ways: 1) A River Runs Through It, and 2) My neighbor Bruce, whom I see floating around Bickley’s Pond in his kayak many, many days after work, and who–let’s just put it this way–knows his way around a fly rod. We exchanged the gifts, which Tim promptly put to use and which I put in a closet somewhere, waiting for that magical day when “I had time.”
Months passed. Years passed. Then we started talking about the possibility of a grand trip to the Canadian Rockies with the Quiggs, the dear friends who introduced us back in 2000, dear friends who happen to be experienced, avid, and exceptionally proficient fly fishermen.
“I’m in!” I exclaimed, as I am always willing to go just about anywhere just about anytime. And the planning commenced.
I SHOULD SAY this. I have a great deal of interest in exploring and traveling and very little interest in planning for any of it. Luckily Tim does, so while my attention is focused elsewhere, he is the detail man.
And so it came as a bit of a shock to me when the trip approached and I realized in no time I would be in one of the most revered fly fishing locations in the world with one of the most experienced fly fishing guides in the world. And I would have absolutely no idea what I was doing.
(WHO DOES THIS??? And also: The night before our first float Vickie kindly taught me how to at least put my fly rod together. She also showed me a collection of flies and all the things a person an angler uses that, for the most part, seem to hang from a vest, which I don’t own, and which were so odd and foreign that, although she was wild with excitement, I felt my own eyes glaze over.)
Then early, early the next morning, there I was in a boat, my assembled fly rod in my hands, and an Australian fishing guide paddling us out onto Canada’s Elk River.
GREG, THE GUIDE, could not have been more kind. Or more patient, or more encouraging. Tim was the same, and the experience turned out to be one of the greatest gifts of my life. It is terrifying to try something new at this age; it is particularly difficult to try something new that is so public. I mean, casting a fly rod is a very big, very visible, very intimidating thing. There is not much you can do that is more physical or takes up more space, that also requires such refined artistry. FLY CASTING WELL IS HARD. And then there are the 10,000 other things you have to remember to do and not do that make fly fishing a mental challenge, as well.
And the biggest surprise of all–nearly all of these fly fishing ways are in stark contrast to the bottom fishing methodology (basic as it was) that I learned as a girl. Needless to say the casting, itself, is completely different. But also you don’t hold the rod tip up, but down. You watch the fly. You present and mend and mend and mend and when you get a strike–you SET, by god, you ACT rather than waiting, confirming, deciding. Decades and decades (and decades) have passed since the last time I fished, and still the old muscle memory held strong. I had to fight my instincts with every motion.
THERE IS ALSO THIS, which still brings me to tears. Tim had fished like a pro, oddly not landing a fish. The guides were a little dumbfounded (although it did not stop us from teasing Tim mercilessly). At lunch on Day 2 he decided to change his jacket and therefore, change his luck.
“I’m putting on Kent’s vest,” he announced.
This made me smile, knowing how much my Daddy loved to fish, knowing how pleased he would be that Tim was remembering him, honoring him, knowing how happy he would be that we were here, doing this together. And off we went in our separate boats, this time the girls together in one, the boys together in the other. When the day was done and we gathered for drinks and fish stories, Jim pulled out his phone to show me a photo of Tim’s first catch that afternoon, which–of course–was one of many, many that followed.
We all stood quiet a moment, once we got a look.
Can you think of a more perfect exclamation point for this most perfect day? Can you think of a sweeter endorsement?
And lordy we had fun. We laughed and ate and delighted in each other’s company. We knew in every moment that we four had been gifted something very special in this adventure, that this remarkable vacation was one for the ages–a genuine trip of a lifetime.
EVERYTHING ON THIS MOUNTAIN is unpredictable, which is one of the things that makes a stay here fascinating. I’ve gone on and on about the weather–you simply do not know one minute to the next what is going to happen. Last month, for instance, we were enjoying a sunny day when an angry bolt of lightning came from nowhere and striking in the meadow, sent a ground current up through the house’s foundation and into the long-handled roller Tim held as he painted the lower porch. The energy arced as it traveled, and he saw it jump wall to roller but thankfully did not feel anything but for immense surprise and awe.
And great relief, praise hands.
Nevertheless the bizarre occurrence certainly got our attention.
And here we are now, another strange something afoot.
It is late August, which means the season of azalea, rhododendron, and wild mountain blueberries has come and gone. Our time here has been sporadic, and yet it is worthy of mention that we have not seen a single black bear since early June. Or was it May? Friends on the mountain tell us their bear sightings, too, have been infrequent, centering on one shy, lone fella who moves about with no consistent pattern. He has appeared on our wildlife cameras over these months but only two or three times.
It is an odd, dramatic change.
It is a change that feels unsettling.
ALL OF THIS is to say we move about differently up here without the stay-on-high-alert THERE MIGHT BE A BEAR status of prior Augusts. For instance, just yesterday friends joined us for an overnight and we took a leisurely hike down the old OM Trail, winding through the deep woods of Narnia, then back up through the tall grasses of our steep meadow.
I found plenty to photograph, as always. But the hardly-have-to-worry stroll served as a powerful reminder of how short the season is here, how when you are down in it and amongst it you become aware of just how quickly nature takes over. It has a mind of its own, that meadow, and as we’ve let it go with very little trimming this summer it has been very happy to remind us just WHO’S BOSS.
It insisted to me, as well, that summer, here, has passed.
That it has gone so quickly!
That seasons change so fast.
THERE ARE MOMENTS, like right now, when I feel this and can hardly catch my breath.
There are times (like this morning) when I have awakened long before the sun, and I have lain there, quiet in the dark, certain I can feel it, certain I can hear it: Time moving on.
I’VE WRITTEN MANY TIMES referencing the teachings of Fr. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan Priest and a globally recognized ecumenical teacher who “bears witness to the universal awakening within Christian mysticism and the Perennial Tradition. ” (If you are not familiar, do click the link and read the very short description. I am no expert, but my heart glows when I read it.) The night we returned from our trip to Maine I flipped open my laptop to see the load of email I had not sifted while on vacation. There was this Rohr meditation, delivered that very day.
The Perennial Tradition constantly recognizes that we are part of somethingmore thanwe are observing something.
How does that feel to you? Rohr continues.
It feels like Maine, is what I thought. It feels like a walk through the woods on Big Cranberry Island; a quiet Acadia moment, the breeze in your hair. It feels like every view of Jordan Pond. It feels like sunset from the top of Cadillac Mountain, and the lobster boats and the rocky coast and the lighthouses and the deep dense fog.
It feels like sea glass.
Because you don’t observe Maine, is what I had already realized. You become part of it.
You are absorbed by it.
Rohr goes on.
The foundational spiritual question is this: Does one’s life give any evidence of an encounter with God? When we’ve experienced union and intimacy with the divine, what is our response? Does the encounter bring about what Paul described as the “fruits” of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and self-control” ?
There are important questions–particularly in a dualistic culture–about becoming what you are surrounded by. Those we will debate another day.
But for now, I am content to soak in my memories of Maine, to (best as I can) hold on to the part of my soul that was moved and soothed and enriched by that beautiful, welcoming, earthly place.
To remember that every glorious moment of grace is born of open, full and humble connection to all that is divine.
It’s a once-in-a-lifetime summer for me, one filled with #lifegoals travel and life enhancing experiences. This is partly due to my approaching 60th birthday–what a fantastic excuse to use for all sorts of wonderful things–but also due to our great and unwavering commitment to making the most of every life opportunity. Our children are grown, our parents are gone, and what we are left with, in this in-between space, is time. The great consolation of time. Even more significant for us, I believe, is the immense blessing of our good health. Tim and I have the physical ability to goanddo, and so we go and do. In fact that is exactly what we do.
This is key to every aspect of our lives. We are in The Golden Time (as articulated by our friend, David LaFuria) and we began planning for it long ago, just after Tim’s dad began suffering the cruel impact of Alzheimers, an horrific journey on which, I am sad to say, my own sweet Daddy recently followed.
(We do not take much for granted anymore, my husband and I.)
Still for me, with all the wonder and joy and grace my beautiful life holds, it is this summer, I believe, that will serve as the pinnacle. There has been a week at Music and Worship (choir camp!) in gorgeous, holy Montreat, North Carolina; there has been a week at the Appalachian Writers’ Workshop in Hindman, Kentucky; we are headed shortly to northern Virginia for a long weekend visit with dear, dear friends; we have, upcoming, the We-Cannot-Believe-This-Is-Happening trip, discussed for years, out west fly fishing with the dear souls who years ago, introduced us.
AND NOW WE ARE IN MAINE. We are in Maine in our rented house on the rocky coast above Bar Harbor, where we’ve come with our treasured friends, the Rojeks, in theoretical celebration of Tim’s 60th. It’s the first make-good of our promise to each other some years ago to take four such trips as these big birthdays just so happen to occur over four successive years. We’re not exactly on schedule, but that doesn’t matter. We’re here together now, and waking up this morning to an early, early coastal Maine sunrise filled my heart with so much joy it’s a wonder it didn’t burst.
I’ve dreamed of Maine for so long.
And finally, here I am.
WE EXPECT OUR WEEK will be spent hiking, biking, touring around. Yesterday we experienced gorgeous Bar Harbor (I have never seen such luscious flowers, anywhere) and today we may head for Acadia.
Or maybe not, who knows, as the planners downstairs–the three of them–are at this moment considering every option. I only know for sure this day will hold, for me, Lobster Roll #1 of the hundred I plan to eat over the course of these next six days.
Every window in this house is open, did I tell you that?
The air is cool, and fresh.
It feels like Maine. It smells like Maine.
It is Maine, the Maine of my dreams, and it has come to life.
I SPEND A GOOD BIT of time alone these days, but for the characters in the novel I am working to finish. It’s good work, solitary work, work that takes focus. And so I have routines that ground me.
I am committed to an early start;
I have a Yeti mug of coffee (prepared by my husband) just the way I like it: 2/3 Starbucks French Roast & 1/3 Eight O’Clock Coffee Hazelnut, skim milk heated and frothed;
Quiet. And if there is not quiet, a noise machine to cancel extraneous sounds;
Essential oils in the diffuser, typically Wild Orange or Tangerine for energy and optimism;
Standing desk for ergonomic accuracy, better posture and less back pain (I am a believer);
Desk and laptop positioned for maximum positive energy flow in my feng shui-ed mountain studio.
Seems awfully fussy, now that I write it. But it’s every bit true.
SO ON THIS PARTICULAR day my head is down and I’m well into it (and going at a pretty good pace) when I hear, just outside the studio door, peck peck peck, peck peck, peck peck. A bird, of course, a woodpecker, I imagine. But this is a metal sound, not wood, so a woodpecker pecking on what? The roof? The gutter?
This is certainly curious.
I step away from the edit. I pick up my camera, slide open the studio’s glass doors, and move onto the deck to investigate.
Sure enough he flies. But he doesn’t go far–just to the tree–the one right there, closest to me.
I raise the lens, snap a shot.
And here he comes, headed straight for me and the deck! I jump, it surprises me so, and right there on the deck’s railing he lands.
He is not three feet away! Might be two! And he is as curious as I.
We regard each other in wonder. I snap another photo, he tilts his head.
I snap one more, he looks on.
I take a step toward him and he does the same–move away he does not!–he is far too interested, apparently, in what I am doing to take off in flight.
We stay like that a good while, the baby woodpecker and I, until finally I say out loud, as much for my benefit as for his:
I do believe you are my muse. Or maybe you are my spirit animal. Yes, you are important to me little bird, and I thank you for showing up.
This he seems to acknowledge. Then he lifts off and heads back to the tree where he lands, turning once again to look at me, then takes flight.
And I slide open the glass door, step back inside. I smile, and I get myself back to work.
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