Tricolored Revelations

There I was, striding through the beautiful January woods, obsessing about all the bad things that had ever happened to me, vowing bloody vengeance on my enemies, plotting the downfall of civilization – you know, the usual – when suddenly I heard wingbeats.

Of all the music in the world, my ears are the most finely tuned to wingbeats. Since I’ve had quite a bit of experience with birds hurtling either toward or past my face, I can usually gauge the size of the bird, how far away it is, and how fast it’s traveling without actually having to see it. This one sounded like it was quite sizeable, going at a good clip, and about a micromillimeter away from my ear.

In a flash, I came up with two options. Either: 1) the Higher Power, fed up with my interior diatribe, had sent someone down to fetch me for a consultation; 2) the resident goshawk, who on several occasions had tried to behead me for treading too close to her nest, had seized the opportunity for an off-season ambush.

I glanced to the side just in time to see a Pileated woodpecker soar over my shoulder, do the woodpecker dip, and disappear into the woods. I don’t know if it was male or female, as I only saw a brilliant blur of red, black and white, and then its back as it flew away. But it had been right there, right next to me.

My jaw dropped, and was quickly replaced by a huge grin; I probably shouted, “Oh, wow!” or something equally clever. I looked around and spotted an old dead hemlock, riddled with holes. This amazing bird must have been on the tree right in front of me as I walked down the trail, and I was too preoccupied to notice. People – well, birders, at least – tend to fall to their knees at the sight of these creatures, and I just walked on by. What a bonehead, the woodpecker must have thought. I’d better teach her a lesson.

My mind cleared, the mayhem fell away. The woods are filled with wonder.

Last week I met an incredible group of women, and one was really good at making up  fortunes, like the ones in fortune cookies. So in honor of them, I will give it a try.

Appreciate the beauty of life before it collides with your face.

Second photo by Gary Fairhead.


About suziegilbert

I live in New York’s beautiful Hudson Valley and have been rehabbing birds for over twenty years. I’ve written a memoir about the slippery slope all rehabbers eventually slide down, called “Flyaway: How a Wild Bird Rehabber Sought Adventure and Found Her Wings,” published in 2009 by HarperCollins; and a children's book called "Hawk Hill," published in 1996 by Chronicle Books. I also write all kinds of freelance content. Please see my website,
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7 Responses to Tricolored Revelations

  1. Jodi says:

    Thanxs for morning laugh,
    Maybe I won’t destroy the earth today

  2. Choral Eddie says:

    You are a poet, as well.

  3. Terry Bain says:

    That fortune is a good rule to live by.

  4. eleanorwithers says:

    Wow…this just gets better all the time!!! Love it!

  5. Sidney says:

    Too true…love it!

  6. Kathie Brown says:

    Lovely blog, and an excellent reminder of how easy it is to pass by wondrous moments. I had an encounter with a pileated woodpecker some years ago when I was living in the Pacific Northwest. Or rather the bird had an extremely forceful encounter – with a window of the house I was living in. I raced outside to see if it was hurt, but it had flown away and landed on a tree, where it spent nearly the entire rest of the day. Eventually when I went to check, it had gone, presumably recovered. Guess they’re pretty well-built for heavy impacts with their head! An amazing bird.

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