Dancing with “Red”

Is that a breeze I feel?  Nah, it’s just my wishful thinking.  The heat and humidity have steadily climbed the thermometer to ‘unbearable’ this past month and my lazy bones have postponed my run until mid-morning. Not smart. I contemplate my route, choosing a longer one, along the mostly shaded greenbelt trail on the outskirts of my neighborhood that leads me to the state park at the shores of Lake Houston. I plod along. My quiet tranquility hindered by the thick humid air swaddling me from all directions until I nestle myself in the trail among the protected shade from the trees. My comfort sets in, pace steadies and now my run really starts.

This is the guy that soars out from among the trees at eye level just in front of me: “Red”

A picture that looks like
A picture that looks like “Red”

           A pileated woodpecker? (I wonder until I can get home to research) His sudden darting startles me. He zips ahead, I’m transfixed on his movements as he entertains me, darting tree to tree and coming to a stop, perching at eye level. As I approach, he skirts around the tree trunk teasing me. A game of peek-a-boo? No. The looming threat of my presence as I approach sends him jetting ahead to yet another tree next along the trail. This time, upon approach, I consciously streamline my movements, stealthily approach, believing the more minimal my motion, the less visible I am. A good exercise in efficiency for me; no bounce, no swinging of the arms, no bobbing of my head. The challenge for me is to see how close I can get. His fiery red head and crest feathers glisten in the streaming sunlight like a painter’s fine brush saturated in pigment. He flits around the trunk again. I make it a bit closer to him but, despite my cat-like approach, I’m met with the same reaction, he zips ahead. This cat and mouse game continues for the next mile and a half, my distance closing in on him with each new attempt. He eventually stops scooting over to the other side of the tree and remains on the same side of the trail, keeping me in view the entire time. I get even closer. Still, he flies off. Two miles have gone by and soon I’ll be leaving the trail for the shoulder of the road leading me to the park. Won’t you let me get closer?

As the trailhead ends, he obliges. I run abreast of him. This time he stays on the tree and watches me go by. This was trust based on history. I wasn’t going to harm him, to attack him, to chase him, I respected him. I wanted to see him, up close and personal. Look in his eyes. And, turns out, he wanted to see me, up close and personal, to trust me and look into my eyes. This is what it takes to build trust. Consistent action with no expectations. Mine, today, were to wonder at his beauty, marvel at his colors. Gain his trust with time and consistency, it was worth it.

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