I love nature as much as the next person (ok, to a point), and a walk through the famed monarch butterfly preserve near Santa Barbara is always a treat. From November through February, this eucalyptus grove is host to what seems like millions of monarchs on their annual migration. So there we were this weekend. Picture it — the sunlight filtering through the leaves; the sight of butterflies fluttering by or hanging in clusters from the branches; the aroma of eucalyptus perfuming the cool air; the utter silence; the — tap. Tap tap. Tap tap tap. TAP TAP TAP TAP.
The sound came from above and seemed huge in the quiet space. An angel typing in Morse code? A butterfly beatboxing? A forest nymph typing out her memoirs on a vintage Royal manual typewriter? No. Tap. No. Tap. And no. Tap tap.
It was a small, nondescript bird, way up on a tree trunk, tapping away — and leading to this heady dialogue between B. and me:
B: “It’s a woodpecker.”
Me: “Can’t be.”
B: “Sure it is — can’t you hear the pecking noise?”
Me: “I can, but it’s not a woodpecker.”
B: “Because …?”
Me. “It’s tiny, it’s brownish-grey, and it’s not making any other sound.”
B: (Looking at me quizzically) “Okay, but why, based on that evidence, do you think it’s not a woodpecker?”
Me: (Looking at B. pityingly) “Do I really have to explain this to you?”
Me: “Everyone knows that woodpeckers are bright blue with a white ruff around their neck and a big red mohawk.”
B: “But –“
Me: “And they make that sound — heh, heh, heh, HEH, heh; heh, heh, heh, HEH, heh.”
B: “How do you know all that?
Me: “I’ve seen it on TV.”
B: (Gets that bemused look on his face like when Kobe scores 39 points and the Lakers still manage to lose) “What channel — Discovery, National Geographic, Animal Planet?”
Me: “Not exactly.”
B: “Then what exactly?”
Me: (Uh-oh, doubt setting in, better pivot) “Why are you interrogating me?”
Me: “Okay, none of those channels. I saw it on CN.”
Me: “No. CN — the Cartoon Network.”
B: (Bursts into laughter so loudly that the butterflies flutter en masse) “You think all woodpeckers look and sound like Woody Woodpecker?”
Me: (Confidently) “They do.” (Less confidently) “They might.” (In a small voice) “They could …” (Realizing there’s no such thing as the Easter Bunny) “They don’t?”
Hey, it was an honest mistake. How many woodpeckers have you seen at 50th and Third or Laurel Canyon and Ventura Boulevard? In Dodger Stadium? At the Met?
Lesson learned: Save the animation for telling funny stories.
That’s all, folks.
© 2014 Claudia Grossman