One day when I went down to the garden to cut a bouquet of flowers I saw a pileated woodpecker drilling on a stump on the other side of the fence. I scooped up the little angel and headed quietly over to look. When I realized the bird wasn't going anywhere we went back to the cabin to get my phone so I could show you this bird that frequently finds mention in my blog. There is a zoom on the camera phone but I've never figured out how to turn it on when I want it and this particular day it wasn't on. The bird was about six feet away eating termite's while drilling the stump apart. It was a male as the crest descended right to the beak and it had a moustache (a red line on the cheek) The female does not have the moustache and her crest is only at the very top of her head. Wood chips from heavy blows landed near my bare feet. When the side of the stump furthest away from us was decimated the bird hopped up on the remaining side and paused to take a good long look at us. Given that a pair typically will have a territory of approximately 150 acres or larger and that the longest recorded living pileated woodpecker in the wild was 12 years old it's nearly guaranteed that this is the same male I've seen and heard on a number of occasions. The black and white wings swooped like an oversized butterfly as it quickly passed into the secret depths of the forest. It's the raw beauty of this movement that endlessly appeals to me as the bird moves effortlessly through time and space leaving nothing behind except feather's and sawdust.
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There was something I wanted to share with my daughter so we put some of her favourite books in her wee ladybug backpack. I told her we were going for a walk and that we were going to read some books. I took her little hand and brought her into the forest where whispering giants grow. We climbed over blowdown and waded through sword ferns until we came to the ancient maple tree I remembered. I came here long ago, as a girl, a young woman searching to find my way. I never stopped coming. There are three enormous arms spaced equally apart on this tree and they are all a footstep off the earth. We settled down in the dry moss sprawled out in arms to big to hold us to read little books and my mind wondered at the loveliness of it all. Over us leaves in sea breezes sang a hymn. Beyond the chorus of greens I caught a glimpse of pureness. I thanked God for this life- our days a breath of peace and gentleness. I thought of Deut. 33:27," The eternal God is a dwelling place, And underneath are the everlasting arms..." When it was time to leave the beaming angel stepped down by herself and we headed home. We had hardly taken a half dozen footsteps before I spotted the wing feather of a pileated woodpecker. Several more and I located another. I knew where the feathers came from - it was too obvious and I knew one was meant for each of us. Turned out that backpack was a little to big so when we got home we found her chocolate brown corduroy one - with the patchwork dog and it fits properly. It's hanging on a hook by the door for next time.
There is a salal bush a short distance away from our hummingbird feeder and this last winter a female Anna's spent a lot of time perched in the bush. When it was dry she was on the tallest branch and when it was raining she was under a leaf- or so it seemed. There is something particularly interesting about the shape of these leaves. They have a point which seems to somewhat direct the rain to run off the tip. These leaves which are very common in the Pacific Northwest -are also popular in the florist industry. There they are known as lemon leaf and are used as greenery for long lasting cut flower arrangements. I remember years ago there used to be a crew who came over to the island. I remember watching their boat leaving the wharf loaded with the bundles stacked so high that only the rider's heads were visible. The leaves are evergreen, leathery, relatively large and shiny. They make excellent emergency toilet paper. Today it rained - a long dripping rain that eventually soaked the dusty earth. My daughter looked out the window at the wet robin perched on the fence and said,"That robin needs an umbrella." Amused I forgot to ask what kind of an umbrella she had in mind. I wonder if it was a salal leaf.
When the northwesterly wind blows through the open kitchen window it keeps it comfortably cool so that I can spend my time baking/cooking without heating up the cabin. Baking is easier than splitting firewood or putting in fence posts (my recent project) and I really enjoy doing it as a way to spend quality time with the little angel. I have salal ( a common native shrub of the Pacific Northwest) growing around the edge of my yard and now the berries are ripe. Raw they are dry and mealy but in baked goods they are scrumptious. This is my muffin recipe: I mix the wet ingredients in one bowl and the dry in another before combining. Wet ingredients: 1 cup salal berries ( I also substitute blueberries); 1/3 cup melted margarine or a flavourless oil; 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk or any kind of milk; 11/2 tsp vanilla; 1/2 cup applesauce or one 113 gram snack cup of unsweetened applesauce. Dry ingredients: 11/2 cups all purpose flour; 3/4 cup white sugar; 1/2 tsp. sea salt; 1/2 tsp. baking soda; 1/2 tsp. baking powder; 1/2 tsp. cinnamon; 1/8 tsp nutmeg Preheat oven to 350. Bake 25 mins in greased muffin tins. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing from tins. Makes 9 large muffins. Freezes well.