I found one of these feathers in 2010 and one in 2011. I couldn’t imagine what kind of critter could have molted these unusual plumes right in my backyard but it never worried me. I’m used to living in oblivion. I don’t know the first thing about any of the grand mysteries of life — what is time? Is death final? Why am I here? – so a few strange looking feathers floating around in my backyard hardly give me pause.
And then: 12 days after our freak October snowstorm, we had a day of glorious Indian summer here on Long Island this past week. It was sunny, clear, and 70 degrees. That morning I sat outside on my patio with a cup of tea, forcing myself to absorb every mote of this moment as the last time I’ll be able to tolerate the early morning air for, oh, about seven months.
And then I began to get the feeling that I was being watched.
I looked up and saw this: Well, not thisexactly. I got this photo from the internet. But I saw what looked to be a polka-dotted bird looking straight at me. We stared at each other for a wile, the he lifted himself off his perch and flapped to another tree, hanging onto the side of the trunk as if he were a woodpecker. And that’s when I saw the yellow flight feathers:
So now I had another mystery on my hands. What kind of woodpecker has a ridiculous polka-dotted front, yellow under his wings, and (I saw it so clearly when he turned his head) an incredibly bright red cap on his head?
And, oh yeah: this bird was HUGE. About the size of an eagle. Enormous.
It looked as if this bird could easily prey on my cats. Swoop down and pick off a daschund, easily.
This bird was the biggest bird I’ve ever seen in my backyard. The biggest bird I’ve ever seen with polka dots.
When the big guy grew bored with me staring at him with open-mouthed awe, he disappeared into the woods. I ran into the house and grabbed my bird book.
And he’s not all that dangerous. Or huge. BUT HE’S GORGEOUS. It’s like Ma Nature decided to make a bird the same way my grandmother makes a quilt, with little swatches of her favorite patterns and colors. And I saw him, right in my backyard. I’m in love with this Flicker.
So here’s some more amazing stuff I’ve seen lately, backyard-adjacent:
Here’s this same amazing cloud with a jet taking off from nearby JFK airport:
This cloud was HUGE.
The story about this amazing cloud is that I found it up in the sky as I came out of my office at 5PM.
And THE VERY NEXT WEEK we turned the clocks back to Standard Time and this is what I see now when I leave the office at 5PM:
But again, getting back to that amazing cloud I found when it was still Daylight Saving Time: I happened to have still been out on the road a mere 40 minutes later, having made a gin and champagne run at the liquor store dropped off teddy bears for the kids at the local orphanage and a HUGE thunderstorm had rolled in all of a sudden. WHAT A SKY!
And because Long Island is full of moron drivers who panic at a few drops of rain and drive like my grandmother (who always hit the brakes at every intersection and inched past green lights because you could never be sure that a red light wasn’t going to blind you in any second), traffic was snarled on the exit ramp off the Northern State Parkway onto the LIE (Long Island Expressway). So even as I sat in my car, stewing over this waste of precious cocktail hour momentum calling upon my inner Zen Master for calm and joy, I had to admit that it was a beautiful sight:
If I had to do it over again, my life that is, which is a mystery to me, I would become a painter of parking lots and traffic jams. These are the facts of 21st century life as we know it (as much as we can know anything about life, that is) and the art world is too busy scribbling about sex and violence. Boy. Have they missed the boat.
And thanks to you dear readers, my life is marginally less mysterious these days. I now know that the Fiction stacks at the library are hiding the fact that there are a slew of irrelevant Dewy Decimals (fiction 813, and 683.4 which we should just get rid of) . And that a creamery is not a dairy — fancy that! And if I want to annoy the IT guy, tell him that I have a question about a sofftware program. And that Chrysais is more than just the name of the most awesome record lable of the 1970s. And that they have to update the words to that great old Ben E. King song to: There is a rose in North Carnegie Hill/a red rose up in North Carnegie Hill…
Thank you for joining me in this special edition of Late-For-Friday blog. And please join me back here on Wednesday, November 16 for a special announcement about a chance to win an original commissioned painting from me in time for the holiday season (I’m guessing it has something to do with Pet Portraits). And there might be something about the annual holiday card you might be interested in, too.lIn the meantime, are there any more life mysteries, grand or petite, that you’d care to clear up for me?