Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The birds & the boys

I was washing dishes last night when I looked out the window and saw a red-bellied woodpecker pecking on my picnic table. It's an old picnic table and I'm not too concerned about damage, but I have to wonder what joy a woodpecker can get out of pecking on furniture. Perhaps the woodpecker sees my picnic table as a buffet of juicy little bugs, which is bad news either for the bird or for the table. Perhaps the bird is trying to hollow out a nest in the leg of the picnic table--a foolhardy pursuit--or perhaps the bird is drumming to attract a mate.

The woodpecker won't explain its motives any more than my 17-year-old son will explain why he regularly drums on furniture. It started when he was about six years old and started using his chopsticks to drum on the dinner table. "We have a percussionist in the family!" I said, but he contradicted me. "I'm not a percussionist," he said. "I'm a drummer."

Millions of paradiddles later, he admits to being a percussionist but he still drums on everything: sofas, chairs, steering wheels, shoes, dinner plates, picnic tables. I doubt that my son is looking for bugs or building a nest--and if he's drumming to attract a mate, I hope he plans to continue drumming for a few more years. But his motives may be more elemental than that: perhaps he drums because that's what drummers do, just as woodpeckers peck because that's what woodpeckers do.

I can live with that. I'm not so sure about the picnic table.

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