January 01 – Winter Woodpecker

Woodpecker wordpress

I spent the day in Eudora, Kansas – a small farmhouse with snow slowly melting back into the earth. The skies were clear today. It was sunny. I worked with a friend, tearing old aluminum siding and cedar slats off the house. Splintered wood and tattered insulation, the clanking of pry-bars and stretching wood – we made a mess, and it was enjoyable. The dripping sound of melting snow surrounded the property, accented occasionally by a lonely wing-broke rooster, unable to hop the fence of the coop to follow the hens into the leaf piles on the edge of the treeline.

As the light began to fail, I asked my friend if he could escort me down through the field, up to the western edge of the property where his tree stand is set up. I brought my camera to work today, hoping I might be able to spend dusk looking for deer. The temperature dropped quickly. Sitting silent and still, the cold grips you in a way that it really just can’t when you’re hauling lumber, swinging a hammer, running up and down a ladder.

No deer tonight, however. The low scream of State Route 10 in the distance, the red sky turned blue, darkened, and the leafless trees blended into the growing darkness. I stumbled back through the dark, through muddy grass. I followed the light of the faintly-illuminated windows of the farmhouse, and I said goodnight to the family. I was a little bummed; the lingering tracks in the snow made it seem like a sure thing that I’d see some deer. Maybe next time. I’m thinking about driving out there tomorrow night, just to give it another go.

The upside was a cluster of pretty fearless woodpeckers in the tree beside mine. I watched them, for maybe an hour – maybe an hour and a half – in the quiet, circling the tree and pecking at it, climbing to the top in a corkscrew trajectory. Once they reached the top, they’d fly back down to the bottom and ascend the tree again, combing it over meticulously. They’re funny little creatures, and quite the trick to photograph; they’re always moving. I enjoyed sitting still, watching the tireless movement of these little creatures.

Not a bad way to begin the new year, I might reckon. Happy New Year. Let’s see if sixteen really is sweet, shall we?

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