I moved to a house that is far from things, tucked away down a road that starts as pavement and turns to dirt, surrounded by farmland and woodland and land, land, land. In the evening, my bedroom turns pink as the golden hour sun sinks down behind the wall of sugar maples, leaves gone tomato red from the autumn cold. At night, I can see stars from my skylights. I don’t know their names, but they are brighter than the red glow from my cellphone charger, more beautiful than the things I can watch on my screens.
And yet there are days when I feel disconnected, lost in the woods, far away from everything. Sometimes, this makes me feel a savage happiness, almost like defiance. But not always.
For the past few days, a woodpecker has been pumping away at the logs outside my bedroom. I sit at my computer and try to work, my fingers thrumming away on a keyboard, knocking down one word after another, and I hear it again. It beats a rhythm into the dark dead wood of my little Maine home.
I use my fingers to type questions into a search bar. Within seconds, I’ve learned that the bird is a downy woodpecker, most likely a juvenile male, and that he could be confused. The house, I read, just looks like a big, oddly shaped tree. He could be digging for carpenter bees or practicing his hunting skills. He could be looking for a place to borrow in and hide from the cold. He could be practicing his mating behavior, bumping and grinding away on my roof.
I see him fly away one morning, and I’m startled by how beautiful he is—black and white with intricate patterns on his sharp-edged wings. He is lovely and fierce (and exceptionally annoying).
Today it is quiet, save for the sound of wind blowing through dead leaves. I miss his rattle and his swagger. I miss being irritated by something so wild. For the sake of my house, I hope he stays away (we can’t have birds digging holes in our log cabin, nor can we pay for exterminators for those possible carpenter bees). But I also hope he comes back, at least to visit.