I saw the saddest and most beautiful thing on my walk this morning. I’m feeling kind of sad myself; I’m not sure why. The weather is glorious and daffodils have sprung up in lemon yellow and pale gold clumps in our woods. I can see them from the windows.
I notice things. I’m often looking down at the ground while I walk. Used to do this as a child and walked into trees and telephone poles frequently. Sometimes I’m looking up and the same thing happens. However this is why I find money sometimes, and why I found a dead owl. It is an unfortunate aspect of living in the country. We have bears and the occasional moose and coyotes and raccoons and deer, and in the spring when everything is flush with life and feeling slightly foolish, we have many dead animals. After the rains, when the roads are clean and steaming I see many, many squashed frogs, newts and snakes. Poor things, just trying to move downwards with the water.
Anyhow, on the positive side- I always try to look at the positive- I’ve always wanted to see an owl. I’d prefer it on the wing, wafting silently above my head but that has never happened so I had to make do with it lying on the verge with its powerful wings askew as if it had been buffeted out of the air by a mac truck. An ignominious end. It had the most beautiful barred plumage in soft buff and gold and white and black; long talons heavily feathered so that it looked as if it was wearing shaggy winter boots, and large discs of golden feathers around the crepe paper eyelids. I moved him further off the road and from there he disappeared. The twenty dollar bill was just a couple of feet further on.
But that was a few weeks ago. This morning my eye was caught by a splash of brilliant red. Carmine, definitely. A small woodpecker, all red and black and white- like the description of Snow White in the old fairytales or is it Rose Red, I’m thinking of? And on the dead, yellow grass beneath the downy breast feathers a drop of blood. The bird was alive. Maybe it was resting. I hesitated to pick it up because I thought the shock would surely kill it. So I left it there. Three feet away like one of those horrid dead game still life paintings was a dead rabbit which someone had thoughtfully put on a pizza box.
Up the hill and up further and then down, down, down, I interrupted five turkey vultures and four crows cleaning up the fresh remains of a squirrel. Turkey vultures are huge. I had a unique perspective because at the sight of me they flew into the air above my head and perched heavily on the lower branches of a pine tree. The weight of them caused the thick branches to bend and bounce and they glared at me balefully. The crows were not so fearful but perhaps humans have been extra cruel to vultures. They are not pretty birds.
An hour later when I passed by again the woodpecker was gone. I am hopeful that it was merely scratched and flew away once it had collected itself. Don’t whisper to me of cats. The drop of blood was still there as brilliant as ever.