The Tree of the Bird

This afternoon as I sat at the dining room table eating my pastrami and egg sandwich looking out at the corkscrew willow a little brown house wren her uplifted tail flicking as she leapt from a twisted branch onto the window ledge where she tapped on the window as she picked insects from the spider webs that stretch from frame to mid-window and back causing a gauzy haze tap-tap-tap, her eye stripes glinted in the crisp white sunlight as she skewered tiny flies and spiders on the end of her pointed beak, then she was gone, the webs empty and the tree fell silent I waited though because it is never silent for long, soon the branches danced and swayed with the weight of the heavy blue Stellar’s jays pouncing through the canopy using the massive tree as a lookout for the surrounding property, they don’t come for the insects that cling to the backs of the long curly leaves like the warblers do in spring filling the tree with their lithe yellow bodies their drab olive wings as camouflage among the fresh green leaves or root around in the dry leaf litter below as the towhees do in the fall searching for ground dwelling insects with their bizarre red eyes, even the juncoes hop through the blackberry brambles that climb up from the ground into the lower branches of the tree and make their way onto the twisted branches to cock their coal black heads and pick insects from the aging bark with their pale beaks, often I sit long after I’ve finished a meal and wait to see who will appear I’m seldom disappointed, most recently I was startled by the small brisk movement of a black and white body with a flaming red crown walking sideways down the old trunk beside the huge gash where one of the large branches tore off in the ice storm we had a few years ago, a downey woodpecker a sure sign that the tree we like to think of as a little worse for wear is actually ailing and will soon need to come down, he tapped and walked and tapped his way down then up then down once more and was gone I waited for him to return until the light through the curtain of leaves began to thin and dim slightly and the little bit of blue sky that shone through grew somewhat darker, one of the copper colored rufous hummingbirds that frequents our property flew into the tree and settled on a curly branch unmoved by his slight weight the last of the sunlight illuminating his bright red throat, the Garden of Eden had the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil which had it upside and downside as we well know but we’ve got the Tree of the Bird and I’ve yet to find a downside to it.

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