“Oh look, a woodpecker!”, I exclaimed as I pointed towards the top of a tree about fifty yards in front of us. “Where?” asked Claire. We stopped walking, as I directed her gaze to the spot where the red-headed bird was perched on the side of a dead limb. Claire wondered aloud, “How did you even notice that? It’s so tiny and so far away!” I explained how I had caught the movement of it landing on the side of that tree, probably because the limb was dead and there were no leaves to hide the movement from my sight.
I’ve always marveled how a part of a tree can be completely dead, yet the rest of the tree thrives. I guess it’s like when a person is in a bad accident or has a stroke and loses the use of a part of their body. Life finds a way to go on.
It had taken weeks to convince Claire to join me on my morning walks. She said she didn’t want to get up earlier than she already does. Plus, she pointed out, it was cold in the morning, and dark! But the days were getting longer, and today was unseasonably warm. A tease of spring, the weatherman had said on the news this morning as I was brushing my teeth.
I had sent Claire a text, not really expecting any response. “Wanna walk? It’s GORG out!!” When her reply of “K” came a minute later, my excitement was probably more than it should have been.
Claire had moved into the building almost a year after I had started living there. And while we were friendly and would chat about all sorts of things whenever we ran into each other, we hadn’t become what I would call real friends. You know, the kind of friend that you are in touch with more frequently than just when you happen to be in the same place. The kind of friend you go to the movies with, or have drinks with after work on a Friday night. Someone to reach out to when you’ve had a really crappy day at work or to let them know about that cute guy that was definitely flirting with you on the subway that morning. Claire and I weren’t that kind of friends. Lately though, I realized that as my real friends had been getting married, having babies or even moving to other states for work, my list of real friends has dwindled to a deplorably low number. I needed to make new real friends.
Claire seemed like someone who would be fun to hang out with, and who had similar opinions on things as I did. Like how frustrating it was that Mr. Putterman of 4B would use the cart that was meant to be left in the laundry room to bring his groceries from his car up to his apartment. Not only was he getting the cart dirty, he also wouldn’t return it to the laundry room for hours! If you happened to be doing laundry at the same time he was bringing in his groceries, you would have to move your wet clothes from the washer to the dryer without the help of that cart, meaning you’d end up dropping more than one freshly cleaned wet item onto the dirty laundry room floor!
So the fact that Claire had agreed to come on my morning walk with me was actually a big deal! I felt like the new kid at school who gets asked to eat lunch at the popular table! Happy to have been included, and scared that I’d totally screw it up.
I had shot a quick reply to Claire, telling her to meet me at the back door to our building in fifteen minutes. I could have been ready in five, but I didn’t want her to feel that she did not have enough time to get ready and give her an excuse to back out of coming with me.
“But how can you tell it’s a woodpecker? You can barely make it out from here” she asked.
As we began walking again, getting closer to the bird in question, I explained that it was because of how it landed on the tree that I was able to tell it was a woodpecker. “You see,” I explained, “woodpeckers perch on the side of a tree, whereas other birds, like the starlings or sparrows perch on top of the branch. Plus,” I added, “woodpeckers flit more than they fly.” I had to explain what I meant by that, after which Claire simply responded with a “hmmm”. I couldn’t tell if it was a “that’s interesting” hmmm or a “this girl knows way too much about woodpeckers” hmmm. I’m not an ornithologist or anything like that, but I do pay close attention to the creatures I come across on my morning walks.
As we walked, Claire seemed to be getting more energetic. I hoped that would mean she would join me again tomorrow. I had told her once, when I was trying to convince her to join me that even though she’d be losing a little more than a half an hour of sleep, she’d actually have more energy the rest of the day. She hadn’t believed me when I had told her that, and I knew better than to risk pissing her off by reminding her of that now. Pissing someone off isn’t the best way to make them want to be friends.
I don’t know why, but as we get older, finding friends becomes harder. Yes, we can have a ton of acquaintances, but developing real friendships takes time and effort. Nothing like when we were school children, where you met someone who sat next to you in class and you had an instant friend.
As we continued our walk, I pointed out the other types of birds we spotted. I pointed out a blue jay, and Claire was again surprised that I could tell it was a blue jay before even being able to see it up close. Actually, it was before we even saw it at all. I heard it. I told her that blue jays were very aggressive birds, and they sounded that way too! I told her about this one time that I was walking and I must have been near its nest, and that the bird kept swooping down at me, almost hitting me, trying to scare me away. It had worked! I made sure not to walk on that side of the street for a few months, until I was sure the baby blue jays were out of the nest. I also told Claire the story about the starlings we saw, and how they were not native to the area. I explained how some dude back in the 1800’s had released some in Central Park, because he wanted to have birds that were mentioned in Shakespeare novels here in the U.S.
We saw and heard a lot of sparrows too and I remarked how I thought sparrows were a lot like humans. They were a social bird, but they tended to fight a lot. It’s kind of like how with humans, we don’t always get along, but we don’t want to be alone either, so we end up putting up with a lot more than we may want to. Claire agreed and told me about a recent argument she had had with one of her friends and how they always seemed to have little spats. But they had been friends for years, and they probably always would be. I wondered if as Claire and I became better friends, if I’d eventually meet that friend, and if my opinion of her would be predisposed to thinking she’s argumentative and hard to get along with, because I was hearing this story of how she was that way with Claire.
Claire seemed to enjoy the walk more and more as the half hour passed. She almost seemed sad to have to head back inside. But mother nature gave me one last surprise to help seal the deal on getting Claire to join me on my morning walk tomorrow … a Red-Breasted Robin! I squealed with delight when I saw it, which made Claire jump a little. I pointed to the beautiful bird with the puffed up orange chest, letting Claire in on the common belief that the first sighting of a Robin means that spring is just around the corner! Maybe today was more than just a tease of Spring, as the weatherman would have had us believe. I always get excited at my first sighting of this bird every year. I hate winter, and even though I knew it wouldn’t be warm for at least a few more months, this hint that it was coming always made me happy.
We said our goodbyes as the elevator let Claire off at her floor. I walked back to my apartment, hoping she would join me the next morning, as she had said she would. If she did, I was definitely going to show her how to talk to the squirrels!
copyright 2019 Lisa Savitzky