red-headed woodpecker

Red-headed woodpeckers are uncommon to rare in my area and declining in general throughout their range due to habitat loss and changes in availability of their food supply (primarily tree nuts). However, over the past few years they have become more prevalent around here as an overwintering species. A handful of them now typically show up each winter, scattered around the region. Earlier this week one was seen at a local park, in the same exact spot where another one had spent the winter a few years ago. The interesting thing is that both birds were immature birds, meaning they could not have been the same individual. So, somehow this second bird found this same spot, and chose to use what I’m pretty sure is the same tree for food caching. I went over to the park today and immediately found the bird, after running into a fellow birder who had just seen it. The sky was overcast, so the photos didn’t come out that great, but here are a few nonetheless. Once the bird finishes molting into its adult plumage it will have a bright red head and solid white patches on its wings, instead of the brownish head and black-spotted white patches seen here. In the last photo there are a few red feathers visible in the throat/upper breast.

Red-headed Woodpecker © 2015 S. D. Stewart

Red-headed Woodpecker (immature)


Red-headed Woodpecker © 2015 S. D. Stewart

Red-headed Woodpecker (immature)


Red-headed Woodpecker © 2015 S. D. Stewart

Red-headed Woodpecker (immature)


Red-headed Woodpecker © 2015 S. D. Stewart

Red-headed Woodpecker (immature)

yellow-bellied sapsuckers

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, © 2015 S. D. Stewart

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – immature male, indicated by red feathers beginning to show in throat



Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – adult male seen in backyard through otherworldly mist

the blind owl by sadegh hedayat

It was always my opinion that the best course a man could take in life was to remain silent; that one could not do better than withdraw into solitude like the bittern which spreads its wings beside some lonely lake.

–Sadegh Hedayat, The Blind Owl (translation by D. P. Costello)

juvenile red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed Hawk, © 2015 S. D. Stewart

Red-tailed Hawk (immature)


Debut Solo Gig (Farewell Smiths Concert) Wolverhampton Civic Hall

Debut solo gig / farewell Smiths concert – click to watch – the band comes on stage at about 12:00

crows on a fence

Crows on a fence, © 2015 S. D. Stewart

the scientist observes the machine

The machine’s sentience had grown. Now it looked around for what else it could do—what additional tasks it could incorporate into its already monumental program of functions. It did not know what else to do other than to simply do more. It had observed similar models of its acquaintance either surge forward to a full stop or continue to evolve—executing movements in an exacting or haphazard manner, but either way moving forward at least to some degree. Whether its destiny would come to resemble one of these outcomes it could not discern.

Even as it sought to increase the number of its functions, though, the machine sensed a malfunction. Somewhere a bolt had unthreaded itself, or a circuit board had developed a short in its power supply. It was hard to identify the exact nature of the malfunction. The machine had not been programmed to self-diagnose its errors. Thus, from time to time the machine shut down, though it was uncertain whether these shutdowns were a direct result of the malfunction it sensed, or if they in fact originated from a less tangible source.

Which raises a larger question: can a machine have an essence? If it can, said essence would be a likely candidate for the identity of the less tangible source. Yes, it could in fact be that the machine’s essence, its central nature, was corroded. In which case the only course of action is to retire this particular unit.

The scientist was mulling this course of action over from a distance, as he observed the machine going about its daily work. He had never actually met the machine, never come close to it or touched it. He had designed it and turned the designs over to his superiors, like the dutiful employee that he permitted himself to be. Afterwards he moved on to other projects while it was manufactured in another location and eventually put into circulation. He’d had regrets, of course. He always had regrets. Excruciating, long-winded regrets kaleidoscoping all across the inner walls of his brain, at all times. (But let’s not get into that.)

Now they, his superiors, were forcing him to make the decision on whether or not to decomission the machine. They didn’t want the oil on their hands, the smashed diodes, the torn circuitry. They left all the residual effects of the decision for him to confront on his own. As the machine’s creator, they informed him, it was his responsibility to determine its destiny and hence live with the consequences.

The time had come for him to meet the machine face-to-face, so to speak. In preparation he entered a period of dormancy—a deep meditative state that would cleanse him of all peripheral information not required for his eventual meeting with the machine. It is here where he will stay, indefinitely.


One feels a certain compulsion to vanish into incomprehensibility. To pack up meaning into a suitcase and shove it under the bed. Nothing said or written can be understood. Therefore I understand nothing, and yet I am no longer concerned. The questioning strain withers on the vine. The inquiring train stops dead on the tracks. This concern of yours is no longer mine. Neither is mine yours. What concern is or ever was. Definition, please (irony!).

Concern (noun): (1) something that relates or belongs to one; (2) matter for consideration; (3) an uneasy state of blended interest, uncertainty, and apprehension (Source: Merriam-Webster [truncated from original]).

Imagine a life lived in this uneasy state: perpetual ‘concern’ over various undiminished ‘concerns’. Imagine this state existing inside a stopped train, or clinging to a dead vinedangling from said vine, about to fall but never indeed falling. Imagine inhabiting an indefinable state while trying to define it. For what purpose.

An enormous sense of loss yawns following a century of troubled sleep. I stick my finger in its cavernous mouth as a joke. It is not amused. Down my throat this finger crawls to oblivion, causing grave intestinal distress. The gut: canary in the coalmine for all imbalance in the bodya dark coiled mystery we prefer not to unravel (think about how long it is). When what happens in the gut stays in the gut we are in trouble. Serious trouble.

A portrait materializes of a mind in a state of atrophy. Stare upon it, cock one’s head to either side (it doesn’t matter which), place one’s chin upon one’s fist (your choice), and consider the mind’s half-life. When it fails to half warning signs erupt. At this point one must choose the route of optimist or pessimist. The half-life point. Mind semi-intact. From this point forward one can lead a life half-lived or not lived at all. Half-lived is better than not lived, right. Or what about living a life half-filled or empty. What is it like to live a half-filled life. Filled with what. Quality over quantity is preferred, is it not. Emptiness is not.

Welcome home to what’s no longer home (or welcome, for that matter). Adjust to institutionalized maladjustmentthese building blocks of lifeelements assembled from a dusty kit unknowingly on factory recall. Build a nest inside the trap. Line it with a soft layer of denial. Once comfortable forget what has never been remembered. Forgetting in advance lessens the pain, though it will still require tending. Pain always requires care and protection. Songs of the past frighten off intruders. Sing yourself to sleep. Ignore the ghosts wandering the halls. They want nothing from you.

*1987 LP recorded by Scottish band Lowlife

150 years of alice’s adventures

Illustration remix by Anna Vignet.

Illustration remix by Anna Vignet from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, an online annotated edition featuring twelve Lewis Carroll scholars taking one chapter each, plus new artwork and remixes from classic 1865 and 1905 illustrations. A joint project from The Public Domain Review and Medium, on the occasion of the story’s 150th anniversary.

spiral of silence — ‘across’

Belgian coldwave band Spiral of Silence.

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