All day the flicker
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
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.
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?