Monday, June 28, 2010


All day the flicker

has anticipated

the lust of the season, by

shouting. he scouts up

tree after tree and at

a certain place begins

to cry out. My, in his

black-freckled vest, bay body with

red trim and sudden chrome

underwings, he is

dapper. Of course somebody

listening nearby

hears him; she answers

with a sound like hysterical

laughter, and rushes out into

the field where he is poised

on an old phone pole, his head

swinging, his wings

opening and shutting in a kind of

butterfly stroke. She can’t

resist; they touch, they flutter.

how lightly, altogether, they accept

the great tasks of carrying life

forward! In the crown of an oak

they choose a small tree-cave

which they enter with sudden quietness

and modesty. and, for a while,

the wind that can be

a knife or a hammer, subsides.

they listen

to the thrushes.

the sky is blue, or the rain

falls with its spills of pearl.

around their wreath of darkness

the leaves of the world unfurl.

Once when a teenager I saw a Northern Flicker grieving. I was a teenager on an errand with my father driving when the car in front of us struck a flicker. The mate that had been flying ahead, turned, and flew back to the ground to stand by his companion. My father stopped the car to see if there was anything we could do. There wasn't. Her beauty was now stilled. We could not believe that the male bird did not fly away as we approached, his quiet stillness beyond words. I could never really guess what my father was thinking or feeling, he being rather stoic and undemonstrative. On this occasion he had tears trailing down his face to see such sadness and loss, echoed in his own heart I do believe. His sadness, the bird’s mourning, and my own grief never leaves me, and neither does this bird’s beauty. Flickers are such lusty, furtive, spontaneous beings as Mary suggests, and their wild bonding brings not just new life, but a centering in how much beauty means to them and to us.

How might loss, mourning, and grief help you grow a life based on your values and life giving actions?

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