Homeless bird-watcher

Shortly after Seattle’s tent city called Nickelsville moved to the University Christian Church parking lot last fall, a writing workshop for residents began meeting on Monday nights. The workshop was called In Tents Writing, although we met across from the encampment, inside the church.

There a 26-year-old man wrote this observant description of birds he spotted while living in the woods the week after he and his girlfriend broke up and he became homeless. He told me that the birds reminded him of growing up in his grandfather’s house in the country and that they were a hopeful sign he would soon find shelter and companionship.

pileated-woodpeckerAn auspicious sight met my eyes last Sunday – a woodpecker family. First I saw a baby woodpecker about, oh, four inches long fly to a tree in the woods where I camped. There was a tint of bright red feathers on top of its head, and my first thought was, I wonder if that is a pileated woodpecker? Standing there I wondered where the parent birds were.

Then I perked up my ears, hearing the clear, distinct sound of a woodpecker knocking on wood. Following the sound, I came across a very long fallen tree on the side of the hill with two fully grown pileated woodpeckers. Pecking away for bugs in their habitat as they were, I noticed the great red fans on top of their heads and the black stripe on the eys, then white below, and another white and black stripe, followed by the giant black body that looked ten inches high. It was a great bond with nature for me.

Please consider choosing one person who shares our public spaces but is socially isolated by homelessness, and meet once a week at a cafe for an hour of coffee and conversation. Ideas about how to get started, along with other Freestyle Volunteer stories, are tabbed above.

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