The Tempest

Not Exactly Shooting For \”Miss Congeniality\”

The Cardinal

Posted by Daniel on Saturday, February 25, 2006

Every now and then, you’ll hear someone refer to the sighting of a cardinal – the red bird, not the red-cloaked priest – as being a portent of good luck. Never was I to believe in silly superstitions, though I must admit, seeing a cardinal always seemed to bring a smile to my face.

Perhaps it was mostly due to it’s sense of timing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cardinal during any season other than winter. One just never pays a lot of attention to birds at any time more than during winter. Everything seems so drab and colorless and then, without warning, a splash of brilliant red flutters into view. And if it snows in your neck of the woods, this is all the more striking. You really can’t help but smile when you see it.

Everything covered in a blanket of white seems frozen in time, rather drab and boring. Then, like Mother Nature doodling with her whimsical paintbrush, the cardinal appears from out of nowhere. Why this has been seen as a stroke of good fortune has always been beyond me. Until, that is, that one particularly nasty day after an ice storm.

It was wicked. One-and-a-half to three inches of ice had fallen, covering everything. Trees the night before had snapped and fallen everywhere. Power lines falling and transformers blowing all over town. We stood at the window and it really looked like the fourth of July. Power was out for over a week. We were in for a long, cold wait. The next day, we knew we had to go find wood and food.

Keeping in mind that I am one of those people you have to watch out for when driving in winter conditions – I’m always so busy worrying about how others are driving badly that I will, inevitably, cause a multi-car pileup – we thought it best to let my better half – who can drive in anything, anytime – do the driving.

It was bitter cold outside and we park in the back of the house. To the left of our cars, there is an over-hang which is our deck extended off of the main floor of the house. If it weren’t for the fact that the house was built in the mid to late twenties, this could have served as a nice carport. We got

into the car, freezing, and while waiting for the heater to do it’s work, we sat there looking out the windows at the frozen tundra that lay before us. Everything looked bleak and lifeless. A lesson to, in the future, plan better for such nasty weather.

Still waiting for the car to belch out some blessed heat, we both noticed a cardinal had landed on the ground under the deck/overhang. It was such a vibrant red it made a striking contrast to the dull ground it hopped around on. We emitted the usual “Oohs” and “Ahhs” and suddenly, it didn’t seem so nasty and dreary to be venturing out in the bleak beyond.

It’s times like these that make you stop and appreciate the wonder that is nature. My spouse and I held hands and saw that we could get through this nasty turn in the weather just fine.

Suddenly, as the cardinal whimsically went at his work pecking the ground for anything edible, or perhaps nesting material, the deck above him gave a blood-curdling groan and collapsed in a thunderous icy heap upon the unsuspecting colorful bird. The added weight of the ice sheet covering the deck was obviously too much weight to bear. All we could do was look on in horror and disbelief. When the carnage was over, there was but a large pile of rubble where our non-carport had once stood.

All we could do was stare at the horror before us and then look at one another in utter disbelief. We stared back at the wreckage before us and noticed that through the top of the pile, a single crimson wing was poking through. The very longest feather pointed out, seeming to point up to heaven in that “We’re number one” sort of way.

It was awful. It was sad. And it was a lesson. Maybe I was wrong all this time in thinking the sighting of a cardinal wasn’t a portent of luck. Or should I say…half right? While obviously not so lucky for the unfortunate cardinal, we realized that this could have been a carport and it could have been us under that pile of ice and broken wood.

We drove off to perform our appointed tasks thinking, “Thank you, Mr. Cardinal, for making me a true believer in the luck you bring. You certainly are number one.”

One Response to “The Cardinal”

  1. Rob said

    Hey Tempest……just wanted to stop by and tell you that I think you have a GREAT blog here – and I will definitely be reading on a regular basis. I appreciate the link to my site here — and I have added a reciprocal link to you at my site as well. Thanks again! Take care.

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