Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snow and sapsucker.

Red-breasted Sapsucker.

There was another 3 or so inches of snow last night, with another hit forecast for later this morning. I thought I’d get a jump on things and shovel the driveway and sidewalk now --and then again later if needed.

Unless it’s heavy snow, which this wasn’t, I enjoy shovelling (up to a point). My wife says it reminds me of being in Ontario, which I suppose it does, but it also carries me other snowy places. Today I thought about a time about a decade ago when we were exploring the trails on Mount Seymour. It was snowy, but the going was easy because the snow had been packed down by many who had gone before. We came upon some of the many in a clearing. It was a gaggle of Girl Guides with their matron. I call her that for her manner. She was haranguing her charges, saying, “It is your personal duty to make sure you pick up every piece of litter or rubbish you drop, or the litter and rubbish left behind by others.” Her voice rang through the forest.

We hurried past them, and soon started saying to each other, “It is your personal duty....” and laughing and laughing, until my wife stopped walking and said, “Oh.” On the ground, at the base of a tree, was a dead Red-breasted Sapsucker. There was no sign of trauma; its eyes still shone. I picked it up. Some little birds die so tidily. They fold up into a compact package that rolls in your hand. Perhaps none fold up so compactly as a sapsucker. Their stiff wing and tail feathers become a cradling box—a coffin .

Of course, they are startlingly beautiful, too: red head, black and white wings and body, lemon-yellow wash on the belly—that’s a lot of colour packed into a small bird, and doubly startling in colour-starved winter woods. I passed the bird for my wife to hold. Like most people, she didn’t have a long history of picking up and examining dead things, but she took it without hesitating.

She said, “It looks just like a Christmas tree ornament.”

Which it did.

That is what I thought about today as I shovelled the driveway.

I just looked out the window. It’s snowing again.

1 comment:

PSYL said...

Wintery times like this always makes me wonder how many animals will survive through it, and how many won't.

It is a cruel but cleansing (not to say those poor animals deserve it) season.