Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Brightest Colour


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.

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28 comments:

  1. I so love the way you write. Sometimes it makes me feel that we must not live in the same universe. And your's is much more interesting than mine! After reading your posts I often feel that what I "write" is really not much more than the "Run, Spot, run" variety. Makes me realize that I am nothing more than a pretender!

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  2. i agree with mellodee... and just a thought of my own here...
    mellodee, with a beautiful warm smile like your own, probably nobody cares how you write so long as you keep smiling at them!
    i have lovely red cardinals at my bird feeders but haven't seen a magnificent woodypecker in years!
    so your picture and story is a double treat! thank you!
    love,
    tammy j

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  3. >>Tammy J....what an absolutely lovely thing to say!! How very kind. Thank you!

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  4. Once in a great while, I see a woodpecker. It is a real treat!

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  5. It sounds to me like you had a "dust of snow" moment. The phrase comes from a Robert Frost poem of the same title. Ironically, I just posted about that poem on my own fledgling blog. Pamela, it was you who introduced me to the artwork of Amber Alexander; she has a lovely painting of a pileated woodpecker in her etsy shop.

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  6. Such a great bird, and always a treat to see it. Many of our days so far this month have been sunny, and there's no sun brighter than February sun. We have barely any snow.

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  7. A lovely glimpse into your day...an image I'll treasure.
    Thanks, Pamela

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  8. We're all a-gray here too and it would be a thrill beyond measure to see a glimpse of red, especially if it looked back at me!
    Thank you for sharing another one of your blessed moments.
    xo J~

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  9. Wasn't he a gift to you on a grey February day? It's a good thing it's a short month, because it is, indeed, one that drains my energy. The giant green and black cedars seem to loom more in February, where in July they soar and sway. The mist and fog are not mysterious in February, as they are in November - they are just soupy and chill straight through to the bones.
    I loved that flash of red - thanks for writing about it!

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  10. They are quite something, knocking away at the trees. I just took some photos of a few trees that look like sculpture installations in the forest because of all the Pileated work! I've seen him a couple times this month, he must be wanting to cheer up the gray as its usually so white around here, but not this year....

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  11. Pamela so beautiful the imagery and your writing. The woodpecker! We have vivid red cardinals that will appear in the midst of a snowy landscape.

    xoxo
    Karena
    Art by Karena

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  12. What marvelous, painterly words you offer.

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  13. Hi Pamela

    What a delightful surprise on a gloomy gray day. He was definitely the centre of interest. I had the joy of seeing a kingfisher outside my window one morning. It just makes the day all the more miraculous.

    Thank you for this beautiful piece of writing
    Helen xx

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  14. February may indeed bring monochrome necrosis', but your writings are sweet bouquets that bring colour to the grey days... thank you, Pamela!
    (I had to look up "grisaille".... it even sounds like what it describes.)
    ~Raven

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  15. He's a handsome bird - February is a month that needs an occasional flash of brilliant colour to help us through to the Spring.

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  16. Beautiful indeed.
    Your words are magic.
    Much love
    Jeanne

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  17. What a wonderful sight Pamela. We have woodpeckers in our garden with red heads but are white everywhere else so, a different woodpecker, I think.
    I happen to LOVE the month of February. My birthday is February 1st and, I love the frost and the snow and that wwonderful crispness in the air. I'm off to Cambridge tomorrow....a city that looks wonderful at anytime of year but has a particular charm in February. XXXX

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  18. February...certainly a gray month..but also a very red one. Love that the Universe reminds us of this once and a while. Love more that you noticed and wrote about it.

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  19. What a wonderful ode to February. How exciting to have had such a chance encounter with "Woody", Pamela. We have pileated woodpeckers here, but, they tend to be elusive as the peck away high up in the trees.

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  20. Pamela, I know your husband Pat somewhat but you only through your writings. Melissa in Nashville, who once I'm privileged to have had as my girlfriend, turned me on to your writings. I'm oftentimes frustrated as she thinks I'm as smart as an owl, but I rather think not.. more smart like a donkey. I come away from one of your blogs with a half dozen words that I'm unfamiliar with, you labor me with having to look up. I'd love to get Melissa & head down to Smyrna sometime to buy you & Pat lunch, if you'd oblige us, only I'd have to come armed with a Webster's or a booted up Google website. Thanks for your words, they beckon me to have my own Blog again someday soon, I had one when blogs weren't even blogs.
    -- Bob, in Salisbury, NC

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  21. Hey, never thought of this before, but perhaps Pamela cheats by using a thesaurus...Nah..:)

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  22. I had a similar experience on a grey February day in Maine, my first day back from NYC. I was feeling low until a pileated woodpecker brightened my day. You capture that experience so well on your blog. I love that painting too.

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  23. Lovely lyrical imagery. We get the pileated woodpecker up on the mountain (near Asheville), but haven't seen him in February. Always exciting to see. Often gives his presence away with that raucous call or the rat-a-tat-tat drumming. Woody Woodpecker indeed.

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  24. Stopped in for a touch of beauty Pamela style. Thank you for delivering.

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  25. This is the kind of thing that lifts the heart this time of year Pamela. I get the same kind of thrill each time I go out and see a line of golden crocus nodding in the wind. It is not all grey if we look around us - there are signs.

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  26. How lovely to catch a glimpse of this beautiful bird, I believe they are very shy.
    Your writing always leaves us breathless!
    have a lovely weekend, even with a leaden sky
    Sharon
    xx

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  27. Once stood no more than 4 feet from a pair chasing each other around a tree in the early spring...think love was in the air. It was enchanting. They would often becken me into the woods with their carpenter skills -unknowingly building little hole houses for their smaller friends.

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  28. What a fortunate sighting! I've only seen that regal, evasive bird twice in all my birding days! Yes...when you least expect it...life reaches out....

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