Take Flight!

Tracey Columns

I don’t know about you but I absolutely love this time of year. The sun is shining and endless shades of green burst out in every direction.

But for me, here at the end of a one lane country road, one of the things I love most about spring is the return of the birds. For about six weeks, we have ducks visiting the pond. (It’s a sad day when they move on.) Naturally, the swallows are racing about building their nests. The quail are fat and happy and those old Blue Jays seem to boss everyone around.

I’ve sat here, drinking my coffee in the early hours of the morning, imagining how absolutely heavenly it must be for a bird to live in this territory. We are surrounded by hundreds of acres of trees. The birds can spend their time high atop countless redwoods, as the sizable flock of plump pigeons seem to enjoy, or sway in the alders that line the creek, like the tiny finches do.

This year, I have begun my days listening to the sound of a hard working woodpecker. Before the sun is even up, I hear the rhythmic tap, tap, tapping of this diligent avian neighbor. When the sun finally make its appearance, I’ve looked out my window wishing I could spot this guy, knowing how impossible it would be. I search through the many branches of the trees in our orchard for perhaps a glimpse. No luck. Beyond that, looking is futile. Just behind our orchard, the trees become a forest that is virtually endless.

Imagine my surprise when, one morning as I was heading off on a walk, I realized the sound of the woodpecker was amazingly close. Just outside our garage, I looked up, hoping for some reason, to catch sight of this morning worker. I craned my neck, following the sound up, up, and up. Yep, there he was – hammering away on the utility pole!

Everything changed in an instant. A utility pole, really? I found myself surprisingly disappointed. Oh, how I had glorified that poor bird. I had him hopping from tree to tree, filling up his belly each morning with a feast of tasty grubs. Nope, it was just him and that darned pole, a boring, unimaginative routine, up one side and down the other, day after day.

As I was gardening that afternoon, it occurred to me that the woodpecker reminded me of some people I know, those in the second half of life who go on “pecking away,” day after day, failing to see all of the “trees” of opportunity that surround them. They don’t seem any happier than that unfortunate bird. Creatures of habit, and perhaps believing they are incapable of change, they slug away at what they have known for their entire lives.

In my mind, I wanted to call out to these people … FLY! Like that dear woodpecker, look around and pick another tree. Who knows what you’ll find if you just stop the noise long enough to consider your options!

Okay, maybe I have too much time to think while I am gardening. Sorry. But if this whacky woodpecker analogy strikes any chords in you, at least consider mixing up life a wee bit. Why not? The clock is ticking and now’s your chance.

And as for the woodpecker? In fairness to him and his brethren, I would be remiss if i didn’t end this with some interesting information I discovered.

After lamenting his plight – utility pole hell – I just had to understand his behavior. (I didn’t want to believe it was simply a matter of one stupid bird who didn’t know any better. Just like I practice with people, birds deserve the benefit of the doubt.) Guess what? Apparently our friendly woodpecker had picked this pole to do his “drumming.” It’s a way he and his friends mark their territories during breeding season. Ha – he had a plan all along.

And now back to you … what’s your plan for the best possible second half of life?

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