A Quiet Moment in the City

Ron Karpinski  1998

 

It snowed today.  Temperatures have been right at or below freezing for more than a week now.  The ground is frozen solid.

This afternoon, I drove into town to do some shopping.  Returning a few hours later, I parked the car just off the street and grabbed my packages from the trunk.  Then I headed for the front door.

As I turned the key in the door, a sharp "ticking" sound caught my attention from somewhere to the rear.  I looked over at the car, thinking perhaps a shot of steam had escaped from the hot motor; but the car made no noise at all.

There it was again.  "Tick, tick, tick" shattered the silence, like a small stick being rapped against a concrete sidewalk.  Other than that one strange sound, the air remained absolutely still, oddly quiet for that time of day.  Straining hard, I tried to get a feel for the direction from which this queer racket emanated.

Then I saw it, in a short thick fir tree next to the sidewalk ten feet away.  On the trunk, just above eye level, perched a cute little woodpecker.  It seemed oblivious to my presence.

Only four or five inches in length, it could not have been an adult yet.  It had a plump, blue and white body, with wings trimmed in black.  Why had it left its warm nest and ventured out on such a frigid day?

The baby bird continued to bang away at the tree trunk while I stared in silence.  It must have wanted to bore a hole in the bark with its sharp bill and extract an insect or two; but the extreme cold had made the outer layer as hard as rock.  For all its effort, the tiny woodpecker made faint progress.

A full minute passed while I stood in my tracks and watched.  Now that I knew where the sound came from, it seemed more distinct than before.  The "tick, tick, tick" took on a resonant effect, like a small hammer bouncing off an anvil.

Unaware of my presence, or unconcerned with my closeness, the young bird concentrated on the task at hand.  Pecking away at a flat bare spot on the tree trunk, it rapped out a symphony, undeterred.  Somewhere up in the treetops, a mother woodpecker must have been beaming with pride.

I felt a warm satisfaction, having shared a quiet moment in the city with a wild creature.  It is nice to know that man hasn't chased them all away.  One last look, and I slipped softly into the house, closing the door gently behind.

 

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