Here in the last days of calendar autumn I look out at the oak trees and still wonder at the remaining colors.  Hidden all season by vibrant greens were these yellows, oranges and reds, as well as the base of rich and varied browns. (You remember my claim that these are the true colors of Christmas, made holy in manger and straw and animal skin.)

But this is a bright sunny day of redheads. First arrived the little Downy woodpecker and its mate, with their black and white barred coats, then the large outrageous Pileated woodpecker came, looking like the remnant of an ancient race. Then came the regulation “Northern” woodpecker, its mate wearing a rather plain tan coat except for that fierce black triangular breastplate. They all work with amazing determination and skill, flying straight down, straight up, perching upside down, beating their heads against the grain, finding all those tiny moving morsels, ugly to me but appetizing to them. The redheads of course include the cardinals and the tanager, whose mate still wears a luminous green coat, which I would have thought she would have shed for a less noticeable one in these woods.

I wonder what the redheads would do with that red and yellow centipede I found yesterday. A mean looking creature, four inches long, scurrying with uncountable legs, with biting pinchers and stingers that intimidated me. A too close encounter would send any sensible person to the Emergency Room. Would they have digested it, enough for several meals, or would they have left it well enough alone? More friendly encounters occur with the humble walking sticks, affixed to anything stable, enjoying the last warm autumn hours.  At six to nine inches long, some of them look like walking branches, large enough for the birds to perch on.

With all these decorated creatures hanging around, I am transported to the scene last night, when the curtains of clouds suddenly revealed themselves as no clouds at all in the northern night sky. They were lights, Northern Lights, shimmering in that rare dance of sunspot rays that fills the northern sky, first with white light, that I mistook for clouds, then gradually revealing all the colors of the rainbow. They shimmered and danced in splendor.

And we think that we will decorate for Christmas? Who can match the extraordinary display that is already in place for us to see?  Glory to the Son! Glory in the Highest! And the lowest.