Knockin' on Heaven's Door

This spring I've become obsessed with a male who is not my husband.

I have a confession to make. I’ve recently become obsessed with a male who is not my husband.

Worse than that, I’ve become a stalker. I’ve Googled him to learn everything I could about his life. I’ve furtively followed him with a camera, hoping he wouldn’t notice as I snapped dozens of pictures. I’ve come to the office early knowing he would be there, hoping to spend some quality time alone with him before others arrived.

The object of my obsession? A pileated woodpecker, I’ve dubbed (unimaginatively, but descriptively) Woody Dunstan.

Woody first made himself known a couple of weeks ago. It was early in the morning and I was sitting at my desk in my office at St. Dunstan’s when I heard a knocking. A repeated knocking. A repeated LOUD knocking.

I got up and went to my office door that opens onto a deck surrounding the back of our building, and there he was, a few feet away, attacking the reflection of himself in the church nursery door. I bemoaned the fact that I didn’t have my good camera with me.

I needn’t have worried. The next day, camera in hand, I came to the office early and there he was. He spent the better part of the morning keeping his territory safe from the evil nursery bird.

I spent the better part of the morning sneaking around barefoot, trying to get as close as I could to capture the image of this country’s largest woodpecker, his scarlet red top knot, his lethally long beak, his long black body, the white underfeathers of his wings.

I have become totally captivated by this charismatic creature. And I'm not the only one. The church has become abuzz with Woody sightings.

He showed up for yoga class on Monday night. He was there for the Tuesday morning book discussion.

On Wednesday, we stopped the informal worship service in the parish hall when someone spotted Woody at the window. We oohed and aahed as we watched not only Woody, but his mate waiting for him in  a nearby tree. Later that evening he put in an appearance at choir practice.

And he was waiting to greet early morning worshippers on Sunday.

One of the best things about my job, and there are many good things, is the setting in which our church is located. Five wooded acres, minutes away from the heart of Buckhead, and yet an oasis of nature.

Woody is not our only avian friend. Last spring we were all entranced by a pair of red-tailed hawks who hung out near our front parking lot, totally unfazed by our comings and goings.

One afternoon last fall, my work was interrupted by a repeated thumping at my office window. A migrating flock of cedar waxwings had stopped for dinner on the berries on the bush there — fermented berries that apparently were the avian equivalent of happy hour. Let’s just say birds shouldn’t fly while intoxicated.

One magical morning I watched as proud mama and papa Canadian geese taught their goslings to take off and land from the pond adjacent to our property.

All of this is in addition to the “garden variety” cardinals, bluebirds, robins, blue jays, wrens and woodpeckers whose symphony of song serenades us each day.

Add to that the frogs, turtles, rabbits, foxes and occasional deer that wander through, and we are reminded daily of the beauty of God’s earth, and our privilege to share it with the rest of God’s creation.

So this spring I am especially grateful to Woody, whose knock, knock, knocking on the nursery door reminds me that the grandeur of God’s creation can surely be heaven on earth.



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Debbie Koehler March 28, 2012 at 06:21 PM
This is absolutely magnificent!! What a writer, photographer, and ministerial poet!! This was a joy to read, look at, and contemplate--thanks for bringing that into my day. DK


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