Today’s Photo Friday topic is Modern. When I clicked through my collection of photos, I realized I don’t have anything that qualifies as modern: instead, I tend to take pictures of old and decrepit things. The closest thing I could come to a “modern” picture was this photo of the new Keene State College Science Center I’d blogged about earlier this month. So, what’s a thoroughly old-fashioned, stuck-in-the-past kind of girl to do with as assignment of this sort?

What I planned to do, of course, is fudge. I took the above picture of the assortment of electrical, ethernet, and telephone cables behind my couch since I’d moved the couch to clean and straighten there anyway. What’s more Modern than this up-close-and-personal view of my electronic lifeline? If it weren’t for these cables and cords, I’d have no idea what is going on in the outside world since I don’t have a TV. Heck, up until yesterday, I didn’t even have a landline phone, just a cell phone that I seldom had on much less answered (as Kathleen can well attest).

Somehow in my mind, the sight of hardwood floors and old-fashioned wallpaper in my turn-of-the-century New England house juxtaposed against 21st century communications technology seemed particularly Modern to me, at least in a literary sense. Literary modernism, you see, is typified by a random, fragmented juxtaposition of elements old and new: a Modernist text like T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, for example, is a mishmash of classic (read: old and old-fashioned) texts. How very Waste-Land-ish, then, is the sight of a wireless network router perched atop a traditional Asian rice-paper lamp? This, indeed, is what our Modern world has come to: East meets West, Old meets New, in the livingroom of a TV-eschewing, Web-surfing born-again Christian Zen Mama. Take human culture, toss it in the blender, and hit puree, baby: that’s the real recipe for Modernism.

As luck would have it, though, as I was mentally composing a blog-post that juxtaposed that photo of my cords and cables with a charming and witty story about how I set-up my new Vonage landline last night after the UPS guy interrupted my laptop Netflix DVD viewing of “Sex in the City” (how very modern is that?), I got interrupted. Sometimes you knock your head against a wall trying to come up with blog fodder, and sometimes the blog fodder comes knocking. At least, that’s what happened with my new neighbor:

Yep, as I was sitting at my office desk mentally composing today’s blog-post, I heard the sound of knocking. I knew there was a hairy woodpecker that hangs out around the row of dead and dying mountain ashes outside my office and bedroom windows, but I’d never heard him drumming or drilling before. Today, though, he was excavating what looks like a nest hole: a cavity large enough for him to crawl into, turn around, and then toss out mouthfuls of wood chips. A nest-building woodpecker in August? According to everything I’ve read about hairy woodpecker behavior, hairies hammer out nests in January, not August. In August, in fact, Mr. Woodpecker should be lying low somewhere in mid-molt.

He does look a little scruffy around the edges, like he’s been having something of a Bad Hair Day. Maybe he wanted to hide his molting, worse-than-balding self in a hole, hence the out-of-season nesting? Or maybe he, like those “Sex in the City” gals, has decided to live outside of the box, in a hole of his own making: instead of waiting for Ms. Right or even Ms. Right Now, Mr. WP has decided to make his own home and his own bed. Who needs a mate, babies, and all the usually scheduled proprieties? Why can’t Mr. WP live in a room (er, hole) of his own, freely independent and unfettered by either instinct or social norm? Surely Mr. WP’s a thoroughly Modern guy: maybe he’s a Metrosexual or even a quirkyalone, or maybe he’s the avian equivalent of Queer Eye for the Straight Bird, decorating his bachelor pad (er, hole) with fine housewares bought for himself alone?

Do you think he has a cable modem, wireless network router, and/or Vonage landline in that snug hole of his? Do you think he watches TV or surfs the web? Earlier today as I swept the floor in my office, Mr. Liberated Bachelor Bird tossed mouthful after mouthful of wood chips out of his hole: here’s a man who’s handy around the house (er, hole) and cleans up after himself. Woodpeckers, I read, “have extraordinarily long, extensible, wormlike tongues which they can protrude to astonishing lengths”; this tongue in turn “is driven by the powerful muscles of the bird’s strong, wiry neck.” Hmmm. I bet those Sex in the City girls would know just what to do with a guy like that. In the meantime, though, as I read further, I answer my own question: “both sexes excavate roosting holes, and each may have several; young, especially, excavate such holes in fall.” This bird might be a old balding bachelor or he might be a wet-behind-the-ears beginner, but either way, he’s roosting, not nesting. Even birds, it seems, feel the occasional need to pupate by themselves in a safe hidey-hole. How very Modern is that?