September 26, 2011

A life memory

This last beautiful weekend led me, through various machinations, to be doing a little orienteering in the vermilion-and-saffron woods near Ottawa on Saturday. GPS is fun, but I still love going back to the map and compass stuff... anyway, at one point, having missed our checkpoint in heavy brush and doubled back on a new bearing (long story), we flushed a full-grown pileated woodpecker, huge red crest, as big as a crow, and looking at us with could only be described as an unstartled bemusement. I've never seen one that close before, but he was breathtaking.

Pileateds are famous for their reticence: stumbling across one is basically a guarantee you really are in the middle of nowhere at that moment. In retrospect, I can only assume the look was one of pity. I think I may have even see his head shake: "Man, are you guys lost..."

UPDATE: A friend asks why I didn't take a picture. Could have, I guess... but... no. It's not just that no picture I ever took on a cellphone was ever going to do justice, or that I didn't feel like sharing; it's just, well, some things in life are too exquisite to be preserved with a memento, or shared in any real way with people who weren't there with you at the time. It was better to just stay still, and let my soul revel in the moment, knowing its like was never going to come again. I had a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with a rare and perfect beauty: that's enough for now, and probably more than an occasional woodsman like me deserved... or it wouldn't have had to rely on sheer luck to have our paths cross for a spell. I'll never need a picture to see what I saw, because it wasn't just a place or a tableau. It was a moment, and you can't photograph time.

Posted by BruceR at 09:21 AM