It never saw it coming.
Sitting on the front porch, I had been watching the Downy Woodpecker as it was eating suet. It had all the feeders to itself.
The Cardinals, Blue jays, and other birds were off doing something else. Often, we get Red-Bellied Woodpeckers at the suet feeder. They tend to talk a lot before, during, and after eating. And don’t get me started on what the Blue Jays are saying.
After loading up on suet from our front yard feeder, the Downy took off for the back yard. It attempted to take a short cut through the open front door, across the living room, and out the back glass slider.
What it didn’t count on was our storm door at the front of the house.
We had stretched a piece of fishing line across the length of the door and had attached long feathers to it. For over two years, it had protected birds, alerting them to the glass storm door.
This afternoon, their presence wasn’t enough.
After crashing into the storm door, the Downy careened into a planter and then onto the concrete porch. She flopped her wings for a few moments and then was still. My hope was that she was just resting for a moment and would recover from the impact. As the moments turned into minutes, it was clear that she would never eat suet from our feeder again.
As I sit on the front porch writing this, another Downy Woodpecker, perhaps a cousin, comes to the suet feeder.
Oblivious to the death scene that had unfolded minutes ago, it happily ate the suet, moving from side to side, as if one side was going to taste better than the other. After a few minutes, I heard the unmistakable call of the Red-Bellied Woodpecker. So too, did the Downy. Off flew the Downy as the Red-Bellied woodpecker alighted on the suet feeder.
I went from feeling very, very sad, to Hakuna Matata, the circle of life in less than five minutes
The Downy Woodpecker that is now in a towel, awaiting a proper burial, had exactly the opposite fate. It was having a perfectly pleasant afternoon and had stopped by a known watering hole for a drink from the birdbath and some suet from the feeder. There was no sign that these were to be its last moments.
READ: Waking up depressed
Now I am having flashbacks to articles I have been reading online of people’s last moments with Coronavirus. People are dying who never were admitted into the hospital because they weren’t sick enough. There are stories of people’s last days and there struggles to see loved ones before they died.
I’m also reminded of a story I read today about someone who survived Covid-19.
Their story was very graphic, yet inspiring. Maybe the uncut, unedited version is what people need to hear to stay safe. Had the Downy Woodpecker seen the warning feathers on the door, odds are this blog post would have never been written.
For 43+ years, I never knew there were feathers on the glass door to warn me of its existence.
Depression would slam me into it, where I would be stopped by the completely unexpected sheet of glass. Thank goodness hitting the glass never killed me. Such was not the case with our Downy Woodpecker today.
Slamming into this invisible wall, I would eventually get up as if nothing had happened and walk, or limp away.
Depression had me doing this over and over until I hit the glass so hard, I needed professional medical help to properly recover. My last crash into what was up to then, the invisible glass, led to my finally recognizing there were warning signals about the glass everywhere.
If I had only understood what they were and why they were there, the flickering feathers (signs of depression) could have prevented me from slamming into the glass wall. Now all I see are the feathers warning me of potential disaster. I see them in unhelpful thinking styles; time travel, catastrophizing, minimizing, and storytelling.
I am finally able to recognize the feathers flickering on the door as warning signals.
And this has made a remarkable difference in my health and wellbeing over the past year. I’m not perfect yet, and I am finally not striving to be. But I am living a much more balanced life with depression, and for that, I am grateful.
I’m off to the edge of the woods with the Downy Woodpecker.
There is a spot overlooking the mountains that seems like it would be a fitting burial spot.
My concealed depression is written under the alias “Depression is not my boss.” I have certifications in SMART Recovery and am a Global Career Development Facilitator.
Last year, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder.If you know someone who might benefit from reading this, please share. And your comments are always appreciated.