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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

woodpeckers and beginner’s heart ~

I have a confession: I’m nuts about birds. Bugs too, for that matter, but we’ll stick to birds for now. Specifically, I think any woodpecker is wonderful. Which means our deck is a way station for starving woodpeckers. This one is a ladderback, like the one feeding this morning. But we’ve had red-bellied, red-headed, flickers &  sapsuckers & several hairy & downy woodpeckers. Each hanging from a feeder, or trying to negotiate the deck rail.

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Strung along the rail like stations of a pilgrimage are suet feeders, sunflower seed tubes (yes, they’ll eat sunflower seeds as well as suet) and a birdbath. There are also hummingbird feeders during hummer season, and a mixed seed feeder for smaller birds. As well as a thistle feeder. See what I meant about NUTS? :) We try to provide food, water and cover for as many native birds as we can.

But woodpeckers are one of my favourites. They’re so easily identifiable — one of the first birds kids learn. Unlike the million sparrow types, there are only a few woodpeckers, and varying sizes and colours make them easily recognised.

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Naming things may be one of the earliest human impulses, featured in Christian stories of naming the animals in the Garden of Eden. Names possess power — many Buddhists receive dharma names; Catholics receive confirmation names, and there are naming ceremonies in Hinduisum, Judaism, many Native American tribes, and more traditions, I’m sure.

In at least one Native American story — I can’t remember which tribe — the flute comes from the woodpecker’s hole on a branch, and the music the wind makes blowing through it. This seems to me one of those amazing metaphors: that music is all around us. We can make it ~ literally ~ from the world around us. From the work of birds, from the wind. From the natural world.

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I try to spend part of each day outside, even if it’s just refilling the bird feeders on a day where the wind bites as you walk into it. In gentler weather, I sit on the deck and watch the birds take turns, like well-disciplined 2nd graders, at the bird bath saucer. The woodpeckers also share — sometimes one on one side of the wire feeder, another on the reverse. They all seem to do this — from the tiniest downy to the rarer flickers & sapsuckerss.

Like the music possible from work — that hard, head-shattering drilling for food that woodpeckers are known for — this easy sharing of resources, even in the whitest Oklahoma winters — is something else I wish I was better at. I try to be  generous w/ my time, with my attention and my skills, but I’m no woodpecker :). As a poet I try to make my own kind of music.

But in my dreams? Sometimes I’m a woodpecker… Sometimes.

 

 

 

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