Sky Fishing

A flash of copper-coloured plumage winks at the corner of my eye. Entangled in an old badminton net hung loosely on the side of the rough plywood shed is a beautiful creature, caught like a fish in some sky fisherman’s net. It is a woodpecker, a northern red-shafted flicker. It thrashes, the brilliant salmon-tint under its brown-barred wings gleaming and hidden again as they beat desperately. Its tawny, red-cheeked head is caught in one small loop, and the black-spotted down on its cream-coloured breast is disarranged from the bird’s struggle, the claws and legs twisted through other strands. As I approach, it panics again, and its wings clatter and bounce against the wooden walls of the shed as it tries again to free itself. It cannot. I must. I grasp the terrified wings and pinion them against its soft body. It shrills a loud, keen note, a piercing question that it asks twice more, not understanding. I can feel the tiny, racing hammer of its heartbeat, pumping in fright as I hold this small, beautiful piece of sky.  With my pocket-knife, I sever the imprisoning strands, each small snick inching the bird closer to freedom. At last, the bird is free in my hand. But I still grasp it gently. Somehow, I cannot bring myself to let go. I pause one moment to let my hand memorize the feel of its body, the small, comforting warmth, the silky down of its breast, the rough legs bunched against my restraining hand. It looks at me now, asking the question with its bright black eyes. I answer. “You can go now.” It bursts from my opened hand like a winged flame, and soars for the nearby forest.


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