The Brightest Colour
There comes a day in February when all the world is grey. The sky hangs leaden over silver grass. Sparks fly from the chimney’s mouth and disappear into a swirl of ashen air that dims the holly berries and mutes the fiery lamp post flame into a drab and cheerless triviality. Colour is wiped from the landscape as even the hemlocks and magnolias, brave as they are in their cloaks of green, fail to pierce the dusky landscape. Care must be taken to ensure one’s thoughts and emotions outwit the monochrome necrosis that envelops the garden like a fever. No wonder it is the shortest month of the year.
It was into this grisaille mural that I ventured on a morning last week. Locking my door behind me, pulling the collar of my coat up against the damp, I made my way down the drive. Still, silent, the street out front was barren of walkers on this muted morning and my head was as empty as the pavement. Sighing a sigh of ennui, I was passing by the sleeping flower bed when I saw it. Just off to my left, at eye level, on the iron cold limb of a winter pine. A flash of red as bright as a ruby. I froze stone still and stared, face to face with the largest bird ever to grace the confines of my garden. A bird rarely seen by human eyes in my part of the world and one whose sheer outlandishness has inspired both legend and cartoon. With a yard long span of black feathered wings and a red hat on his head of extravagant proportions, I was looking into the ebony eyes of Woody Woodpecker himself. A rare and magnificent Pileated Woodpecker.
He graciously waited till my heart calmed a bit, gingerly hopping from limb to limb, never taking his eyes off my own as he soaked up my gobsmacked admiration. He gave me the briefest of nods then suddenly, with all the grand theatrics of an eagle, he lifted up into the oyster air and flew, wings stretched knife-straight, head aflame with an otherworldly red. I watched him recede into nothingness, his ruby hat slowly evaporating into the grey.
Perhaps, I thought, he chooses this month to be seen.
A holy reminder that in the darkest time, the brightest colour.