The Woodpecker & The Tree

I am enormously grateful that I am moved by the beauty and strength of a tree. I have spent many (but not quite enough) tranquil moments watching and admiring trees. Trees provide an unassuming, grounding presence for restless spirits such as mine.

I remember one day not too long ago when spring had turned to summer, and I stopped short and quite abruptly in front of a gingko tree. The tree was now fully covered in green leaves – when did the bare winter transform to full grown summer? I don’t remember the quiet miracle of life marching on though I passed the tree almost everyday: The efficient leaves photosynthesizing and nourishing the tree.

I am reminded of William Blake’s quotes on trees:

“To some people a tree is something so incredibly beautiful that it brings tears to the eyes. To others, it is just a green thing that stands in the way.”

William Blake

How sagely they bear the scurrying squirrels, the boisterous monkeys, the birds who make their homes in them including birds like woodpeckers who must be a noisy presence, the army of insects, and so much more? Even in my most whimsical moments, I cannot envision an angry tree or even an annoyed one. A tree is always what it is: steady, useful, beautiful.

I was watching a woodpecker peck steadily at a tree branch one day.

Tok-tok-tok-tok-tok-tok-tok

Tok-tok-tok-tok-tok-tok-tok

I stood there taking in the beauty of the suns rays, the straight angle at which the woodpecker was perched on the tree (really – how was it holding on like that without ropes, and banging its head against the tree all day long?), the beautiful red of its feathers glinting against the rays of the sun, contrasting with the light green of the trees leaves.

Tok-tok-tok-tok-tok-tok-tok

Tok-tok-tok-tok-tok-tok-tok

I remember wondering why the tree didn’t just shudder a bit to shake the bird off. But it didn’t. The woodpecker for its part seemed to be so happy at yammering at the tree like that it shocked me. For such a small bird to absorb the waves created must be quite high even if it was self inflicted.

Musings like these are music to the soul. For I came back and the internet gave me plenty to read up on woodpeckers. Coming from the human world, I assumed a design structure such as shock absorbers for the woodpeckers to endure the yammering. But nature surprised me yet again. Biomimicry as a discipline continues to hold me in awe. Woodpeckers really do not have shock absorbers. Instead their skulls are designed to endure the impact much like a hammer takes the impact of a bang. Given their size, the impacts they make are just enough for them to absorb throughout the day. 

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/woodpecker-skulls-dont-absorb-shock-like-previously-thought-180980426/

About 12 thousand times a day, woodpeckers drill their beaks into trees to search for food, make nests or communicate with other birds. 

Article linked from the Smithsonian Magazine

When pecks arrive through the day, I think of the tree, and the happy woodpecker. Even though all those who knock and peck at my attention are not exactly happy to do so, I assume they are happy like the woodpecker, and I try, poorly, to act the part of the sagacious, gracious tree and all is well.

Skip Your Way There

The school year was coming to a close, and I had promised the elementary school going son and his friend that I would show them a marvel on the way to school. Off we went then looking for this mystical being living in our midst. The excitement had built up in them. With the ready enthusiasm for serendipitous adventure that childhood blesses them with, they were chatting along to see this wondrous three-headed beauty, while I soaked in their infectious enthusiasm like a pup on a spring saunter.

We approached the marvel with hushed tones, and there it was, standing erect and tall, urging us to believe that there is magic and possibilities out of the ordinary: A tree in which the trunk grew for several feet , and then sprouted off in 3 different directions, like three siblings, or a three headed being, each with its own whims, but living together as one.

As I saw the tree, I could not help thinking of Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables:

I couldn’t live in a world where there were no trees; something vital in me would starve. – Anne of Green Gables – L. Montgomery

It is a beautiful tree, but what was more beautiful was the rapturous attention the children paid to it. They marveled, and the magical in them, so easily accessible under the surface bubbled up as they befriended and clambered on the tree. Off they went with their heart full of tales of the little adventure they had had that day. I could see it in the way they skipped to school that morning. 

One dressed like a princess in bubbling swirls of excitement, the other clad in a princely cloak of incredulity and wonder. An urge to skip gurgled in me. I definitely had a spring in my step as I watched them that morning. When is it that we stop skipping along? I don’t remember the time adults stopped skipping, but it should be a day we rap ourselves on our knuckles. What can be more enjoyable than skipping along to wherever we are headed? Why are our steps laden with the weight of the world?

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. 

Some see nature all ridicule and deformity. 

And some scarce see nature at all. 

But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself 

– William Blake.

cropped-curvy_bristlecone.jpg

Why can’t we imagine ourselves as princesses and princes out for a royal journey with adventures along our path everyday? In fact, once we do imagine this, the world has a way of giving us the very adventures we don’t even dare to dream about.

For us it came about in the Land of Fire & Ice, and in a world where there weren’t as many trees as I’d like, but a place that captured my heart and soul to willingly belong elementally, fundamentally, intellectually to it.

Next Stop: The Land of Fire & Ice 

Also read: About Ombu Trees in The Mockery Bird

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