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Out On A Limb
by Sharmagne Leland-St.John

On this cold, quiet autumn morning at barely five minutes past eight I find myself in my daughter Daisy's room. The smallest and therefore warmest room in this old, 4 story, circa 1920s, chilly house, devoid of central heat. I am sitting at the white particle board desk scavenged a decade ago from some roadside trash heap. Proving the old adage that "one man's trash is another man's treasure" and a frugal single Mother's delight! I marvel as I watch a woodpecker corkscrew her way up and down a branch of the black walnut tree outside my window. It is amazing to me that she is fearless as she hangs upside down some 20 feet or more above the ground. She is beautiful. She is dove gray with delicate black markings. Her back is speckled like her distant cousin the quail. Her cheeks have dark stripes and her head looks as if she is wearing a tiny toupee. I watch her tapping her way up and down each branch stopping every once in a while to hop to a limb above or below. Methodically tap, tap, taping her way along this intricate network of limbs and foliage, twigs and leaf, branching out in an almost dizzying myriad of directions. As I sit here at my keyboard, sipping from a steaming cup of hot sassafras tea I wonder what instinct in her tells her to do this and then I see her stop as if she has found some delicacy. I offer a silent prayer to the Creator that she has not found a termite, or a bore beetle, or worse! Behind her I see a squirrel out for his morning run along the lower limbs of the same tree. Performing a sole adagio of leaps and bounds from branch to bough. Two totally different animals, two different species even, living in perfect harmony on the same tree. Other smaller less colorful birds twitter and flit from branch to branch. The sunlight filters down creating "hot spots" of light on the twigs, branches and trunk on the East side of the tree and dappled shadows on the Southern and Western sides of the same branches and trunk. The squirrel has stopped. He is arching his tail friskily up and over his tan and charcoal back as he studiously investigates a small black walnut which he rolls round and round in his tiny four fingered hands. Nature holds such perfection. I see patches of a cerulean blue sky through the green and yellow leaves of this magnificent sprawling tree which is perfectly centered and exquisitely framed by French windows with brass hasps and hinges. Decals of Winnie the Pooh dressed in a nightcap and flannel gown snuggling with his little paranoid pal Piglet, while he dreams of pots full of sweet honey, are faded and curling on two of the six window panes. Carefully stuck there long ago by the delicate hands of a child who still believed that bears could talk and a certain blue donkey named Eyore was not bipolar.

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