Woody Meets Angela’s Hammer

By Tooker Gomberg, Ottawa Valley, Canada.

Angela and Tooker move to the woods and meet their new neighbours.

Don’t get me wrong – I love Toronto’s Red Rocket streetcars. And I’ve always been a fan of public transit. But it has been truly joyful to get away from their midnight rumblings past our College Street windows, and to breathe tree oxygen into our lungs. And a relief to be away from a million cars, and SARS.

We’re in the wild woods of the Wilno Hills now, in the Ottawa Valley of Eastern Ontario, not far from the dirt road intersection of Mountain View Road and High Country Road. In these parts you’re almost as likely to see a UFO as a car.

Our two story ramshackle wood house is well ventilated with cracks in the walls and floors. Plastic film covers many of the windows, and when it rains our sheds are irrigated through holes in the asphalt shingles. It’s cozy and quiet, and the garden is bursting alive with yellow daffodils and green growth galore. The oregano patch, the grape vines and the giant rosebushes are slowly and patiently awaiting their moments to bloom in the sun.

As Angela and I bedded down for our first night in our off-the-grid cabin in the woods all was dark and cozy. And quiet.

Until 5:30 a.m. Then all hell broke loose.

The rural equivalent of a blaring honking traffic jam erupted. From the beak of one single bird.

The morning peace was shattered by a crazed woodpecker banging and banging on the wall right next to our heads. What had gotten in to him? Was he trying to teach us to get up early, to garden while the sun shines? Did he have trouble sleeping, and wanted to commune with humans? Who knows?

I tried sleeping through it, but Ange would have none of it. She leaned over and grabbed the first thing that came to her hand — a rolled up yoga mat, and swatted the wall. On the upswing she whacked me out of my slumber and after hitting the wall our avian friend just ignored her.

That’s when Ange made a terrible mistake. She got up and grabbed a hammer.

There she stood, in naked splendor, bashing the wall with all her might. She pounded with everything she had. And what did this zany crimson headed woodpecker do? He hammered back.

I now believe that our woodpecker friend, who we have nicknamed Woody, is not particularly interested in termites or ants. In fact, in the days that have passed I have never seen this zig-zagged bird gobble any grubs or insect goodies.

I think that he has been looking for a mate. The right mate that can make a noise louder than he can. A bird that gets attention.

And the sound of Angela’s hammer hitting the wall must have resonated deep inside of him. Angela’s hammering is now, I expect, part of yellow-bellied sapsucker lore for all eternity. The story of Woody, and his encounter with the ultimate mate, is right now being communicated from generation to generation. In Morse code, I presume.

Angela’s hammering has ensured that Woody is here to stay, and unless he miraculously gets a concussion from all the head banging he’ll probably bring friends.

For our part, we’re getting used to the din and more or less sleep through the noise. We are even considering getting up early with him. And every now and again we surprise ourselves by shouting: “come in” thinking a human is knocking on our front door.

Angela and I have agreed that we won’t hammer on the walls with all our might. I don’t think the building can take that kind of abuse. And if the whole place collapsed on top of us, where would Woody go? And without us to communicate with, what would the poor bird do?