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A Cardinal Moment

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A Cardinal Moment

Tammy Korade

I returned home from an evening run

Physically exhausted and drenched with sweat from heat, humidity and exertion

I did cool down walking in my backyard, alternating with squats

At one turn a flash of red caught my eye and I stopped

A female cardinal flew to the tree no more than ten feet away from me

As I watched her on a branch, a male swooped in and landed near her

 The female was more brown than red

With a bright orange beak and lighter shades of orange under her tail

The male was bold and bright, both in color and behavior

As the female stayed on the branch, he flew down to feed on the suet

I watched him pivot and peck, red flashing as he turned

His head and tail regal in plumage, a dramatic offset to the subtle female

I held my breath and remained still

He moved and turned his head, his eyes meeting mine

The black mask around his eyes was like kohl

An exclamation and outline drawing me in

My chest froze and emotion filled my throat

The stare lasted a few seconds before he cocked his head and flew away to the fence

I couldn’t breathe, stood still and mentally begged him to return

Come back, what did it mean

The two birds flew off and I took a few stumbling steps

I couldn’t get a breath as emotion welled

What did that stare mean, what was the message

I found myself on my knees as tears overflowed

Finally able to breathe as emotion poured out

Spent, open, I stood and looked around

No cardinals, the moment gone

I breathed deep, taking in the mystery of nature

The meaning is mine to find, the momentary connection a gift I will cherish