A wood full of woodpeckers

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I opened a British Medical Journal yesterday and the obituaries were there; earnest distinguished looking doctors, predominantly men, Roger Bannister foremost amongst them. The world reveres him for his four minute mile, yet he researched and practiced in Neurology and had a list of qualifications as long as my arm.

Our revels now are ended. Shakespeare is famous for the beauty and pleasure and truths in his works. Will I be remembered for anything? Does it matter?

When I die, I don’t expect an obituary in the BMJ, or one in the local paper. I don’t even know I know if I lengthened, or shortened, anyone’s life. If I’m lucky, some people may remember I was kind when their loved one died.

What will survive me? I like to hope a wood full of birds.

Last spring, we were faithful at topping up some birdfeeders, and a pair of woodpeckers started coming down from the wood behind us, eventually raising two young, which they often fed on our balcony rail. This summer there are another two, bouncing and teetering on the rail as their mother brings them food. On Sunday we went for a walk in the next valley and three woodpeckers flew through the trees above us, in a place we’d not seen woodpeckers before. Have we helped populate a wood with woodpeckers? I want that to be true. It’s a little thing, one that maybe only lasts a year beyond my death, until a severe winter decimates their population, but that’s enough.

Cathy Johnson

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