Sleeping on the Balcony
The thick walls of the log cabin usually keep the house at Monkey Valley pretty cool, even in the August heat. But I had all the windows open, and after a day of +40°, it was 26° inside the house in the evening, and even hotter upstairs in my bedroom. This motivated me to drag the futon mattress outside onto the balcony next to the master bedroom, and sleep out in the moonlight. I brought out my down pillow and two down comforters, and snuggled in for a night of blissfully relaxing sleep. Usually when sleeping out I’ve used a mummy bag. The down comforters were warmer and so much more comfy, without the confines of the mummy bag. This is definitely the way to go!
I slept deeply until about 7:30 am, well past dawn. I was awakened by a chipmunk bounding up the stairs to investigate the strange green and yellow mound of duvets on the balcony. I looked at him and he scurried back down, pausing for some tail-flicking halfway down the stairs. I luxuriated on the mattress, enjoying the calls of the birds in the pine grove near the house. I noticed that the morning air smelled like root beer—sweet, earthy, faintly pine. Soon a female flicker flew over to the railing near my feet. We spent a minute or two looking at each other. I admired her spotted breast—white with black spots—noticing a black patch at the top of her breast, and the black stripes on her back. “How beautiful you are!” I said to her. I actually thought she was a woodpecker, and was trying to remember all the details so I could look her up in the guidebook. I felt deeply satisfied with this visit, and watched her for a while after she flew away to a nearby lodgepole pine. I heard her call out a few short, definite “kee-ew” calls, and thought “Aha! So that’s who makes that sound.”
I marveled at the aliveness of this land in the morning hours. The air was filled with bird calls, and as I watched the pine grove it was constantly moving with the flights, landings, and take-offs of darting birds. Consulting the guidebooks later (National Audubon Society Field Guide to Birds: Western Region and David Sibley’s The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America), I discovered that my visitor was not a woodpecker, but a red-shafted flicker, female. The flicker is special to me, and I’ll tell you why another day. Other birds I saw in the grove included the stunning yellow warbler, with brilliant yellow head and belly, and olive-toned back. This is one of my favourites, and I’ve seen these beautifully joyful birds frequently at Monkey Valley, especially down in the willow bushes near the creek.
I also saw a group of black-capped chickadees flitting about, their white-edged tail feathers flashing in a V. These ones were very hard to identify in the bird books. Their white V shaped tail pattern is so distinctive, but this wasn’t shown in either book. I am perhaps a dud when it comes to identifying birds. They seem so clear and vivid when I am looking at them, but then the guidebooks have details I didn’t notice, and perhaps show examples of birds with slightly different colouring. The Sibley Field Guide is more useful for showing variations in coloration that occur due to differences in region, gender, and age, and I trust it more than the Audubon one, which has beautiful colour plates that never seem to resemble the birds I see!
Anyway, this was such a wonderful start to the day, followed by morning coffee (Nelson, BC’s Oso Negro Decaf—think global, buy local) with the guidebooks on the porch overlooking the creek. It made me wish I never had to leave Monkey Valley. I felt so happy to be alive, and lucky to live on this beautiful land.