flicker

July 8

Somehow when I think of summer I tend to picture lazy days spent reading novels in a hammock or bare feet sun-browned and barnacle-toughened padding along dry forest paths. This summer has not been that. It's been full, hectic, busy, the kind with too many workdays. Last month was my high school reunion, which I emphatically said I would avoid, but a chance encounter, a random comment, and all of a sudden we had tickets. An afternoon at the lake with old friends was just as good as it ever was, and felt so overdue. The reunion itself was both incredibly awkward and far more fun than expected. It was interesting the way people looked like themselves, but more, or less, or different than back then at any rate, everyone wearing ten years differently. To my great frustration, I spent the whole next week wishing I had worn my polka dotted dress instead. Ridiculous. This past Sunday morning we slept late and stumbled around the house confused and unsettled. The sky was an eerie sepia-orange-pink, the inside of our house at midmorning was dark as evening. We hoped that a storm was rolling in, and would bring rain, but it just brewed and brooded until we couldn't take it and drove across town in the muggy heat to the lake my husband swam in as a child. I had to turn on the headlights in order to see the console.The sun was a red disk in the smoggish sky and a faint taste of smoke told us what we had begun to expect: this was forest fires. The winds had shifted, bringing to our awareness to what's going on in much of the rest of this province, and it was like a mild version of the July I spent up north last summer.  At the lake, the green of the trees was almost fluorescent in the twilight-zone kind of light. The water was refreshing, normalizing, and we returned home in the afternoon able to pick up the threads of tasks we had scattered in the morning.

The reach-tug of the waves along the shore this morning while I walked home from my job in town was validating and soothing to some piece of me that wants freedom and creativity above all, that struggles to meet the schedules of the mundane and hopes pockets of time would open when wished for and treasures would show up on the most drudging of days. I did see a northern flicker and a host of robins though, so that is something.

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the flicker (and the couch)

567 I don't believe in being bored.

As my second week of home rest comes to a close, I'm starting to think a third week will pass before I can really get up and start living normally again. I don't really mind; I'm trying to make the best of it. It seems okay, at this time of year, to spend countless hours in quiet reflection. The icicles outside the windows are lengthening, but so are the days. A mist hangs over the mountains, carrying a dusting of tiny snowflakes.

A week ago yesterday, something special happened. I held a real, live flicker. A beautiful creature, about the size of a football, resting soft and solid in my arms. He had bright eyes that seemed alert and curious, and strangely trusting. It was wonderful to see his exquisite plumage up close: a downy creamy belly speckled with little black heart-shaped dots, a red cheek and black throat, wings striped brown and black and orange.

What happened is this: earlier in the month, we made plans to visit my family on the coast. Despite my injury, we drove and drove, because all the plans were in place. At one point, we were stopped on the side of the road, and I saw a flicker, all puffed up, huddled in the snow under a little fir tree. Jer started towards it to make sure it was alright. As he drew nearer, it hopped/flew awkwardly a few feet. He caught it easily. We wrapped it in an old tee shirt of mine, covering its head so the dark would relax it. I held the flicker for a glorious forty minutes, gently and close, thrilled and sad and worried for it, until we rolled in at the SPCA. The lady there looked at it and it turned out to not have a broken wing, but a broken leg, right at the top. The SPCA sent us to a kind local vet that cares for wild creatures, and gave us a crate to put the flicker in. The poor bird kept loosing his balance and scrambling and though I tilted the crate to help it prop itself against a wall, I wanted nothing more than to hold it, for in my arms it had been calm. The vet said the bird wouldn't survive in the wild and it might be kindest to euthanize. I looked at the bird, all bright eyes and healthy weight, and pleaded, then the vet said he would have to amputate. We offered to take it to the bird sanctuary near us (BEAKS Castlegar) on our way home. Then we had to continue on our way. In the car, we spun dreams of fencing a huge run in our backyard, including the porch and the maple tree and giving the flicker a life with us. The next day we called the vet to check in. The amputation never happened. The flicker didn't make it through the night. All manner of things happened over the course of this story; I fell head over heels in love with this flicker, felt an enormous amount of responsibility for it, having taken it from the wild, and feel deep sadness for it, for a beautiful bird gone because of a broken leg, for its pain and suffering, for the shock and fear it must have felt being brought into the bright, noisy, unfamiliar world of humans. I hope that it wouldn't have rather died in the snowbank, with what it knew all around. I hope it took some comfort in dying somewhere warm, and that maybe it felt a little bit safe, and a little bit loved.

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We have since made a pact, Jer and I (yes, to have more flickers in our lives, but also-) to never travel when one of us is injured. Pain and a lack of mobility can really take the fun out of a trip. Still, it was very nice to see the relatives that so kindly put us up and fed us and allowed me to languish on their couches. It should probably be said again that it was very nice indeed of Jeremy to drive me out such a long way to see my family, and sit on couches with me.

The day we drove back, the coast was blanketed thick with fog. Inland, as we approached the mountains, the sky opened up vast and blue and I basked bare arms in the sun. In all fairness, it should be said that my arms got goosebumps in the shady patches and that the weather was deliciously mild on the coast, sweater or shirtsleeves weather, no coat-toque-scarf-mittens required, and that the day before, we'd spent part of a beautiful sunny afternoon at a favorite childhood beach with a friend. The way back was rich in one of my new discovered favorites of cold-winters: rime ice. It's gorgeous. Thickly frosted trees and bushes contrasted with the deep blue sky. My other favorite around here is the alpenglow. At the end of a sunny day, snowfields light up goldenrose.

Back here on the home couch, in my nest of pillows, I am dreaming up an onion-kale-cheddar frittata, and coffee.

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