A few months ago, I began to see and hear a lot of woodpeckers. One time, while I was sitting at the top of my sacred mountain, a woodpecker flew over my head so close that I could hear its wings whistle when it flapped.
But I didn’t really realize there was anything significant about the appearance of woodpeckers in my life until I was on my land this last time. I had requested messages for humanity from the land and the trees and rocks and Mother Earth, and they had delivered.
But I also had received the message for myself, asking me to take some time to simply be very, very present on the land. To be there without intention or effort. To just. Be. There.
Thus, there were long periods while I was there that I very deliberately did exactly nothing except exist.
During one of these times, my attention was grabbed by the very, very noisy call of a woodpecker.
Looking up, I saw something that took my breath away.
You may or may not know that there are several woodpecker species that are native to the Appalachians of North Carolina, where Dragon Hollow lies. Most of them are small-ish and very commonly seen, if you care to look for them.
Then there’s the pileated. The pileated woodpecker is extremely large for a woodpecker. About the size of a crow, it is among the largest non-raptor birds to be found in a Carolina forest.
And it has a large, bright red crest.
It is hard to miss.
Except that I had missed them. I had learned about the pileated woodpecker in college and had longed to see one ever since. Somehow, in more than twenty years, I never had.
Until exactly the moment in question.
I looked up and there, in stark profile, as though posing for a magazine cover, clinging to the trunk of a nearby tree, the bird of my dreams. A large, stunning pileated woodpecker. It had literally called my attention to it and then stood there waiting for me to look.
Then it flew away.
Okay. Okay. I hear you.
Woodpecker, you have something to teach me.
Yes, says woodpecker, and I need you to listen to me right now. This is the moment to listen. PAY ATTENTION.
All the previous appearances had been priming me for this one, so that I would know to really, really pay attention.
Now, here’s the thing about messages of this nature. Sometimes I can listen hard to them and still not be sure what they’re about right away. That’s okay. I’ve learned to wait and be patient. It will come.
So I’ve been sitting on this, waiting for the message to come clear. Tonight, I heard prompting from Spirit that it was time to dig in and become clear.
The message from woodpecker is ready, and it is for all of us.
One: Tune in to the heartbeat of Mother Earth.
The drumbeat of the woodpecker is the drumbeat of the Mother. It teaches us to sink our energetic roots down into the soil, into the stones, down down down to the place from whence we arose. We can follow the drumbeat, and follow the path of the tree, down and down.
The Earth is a massive energy sink. We humans are currently experiencing a massive energy spike. Rooting down into the earth allows us to discharge the spike down where it may be received and transformed.
During this time, take some time to listen to music with a strong drumbeat. Or, better yet, simple rhythmic drumbeats that you can meditate by. Or, if you own a drum, do the drumming yourself and see where it takes you. Connect with Earth energy and allow Earth to absorb and transmute your anxieties and your uncertainty.
Two: Build your nest, maintain your boundaries.
The woodpecker’s distinctive drumming serves many purposes. Among them: They drum holes to build nests in, and they drum rhythms to declare their territory.
Woodpecker is teaching us to take the time to dig into our homes, and make them safe shelters for ourselves. To make use of what is available to us, and make the best of what we have. Woodpecker is also teaching us to maintain our safe boundaries. You have a right to your space, you have a right to protect yourself and your family.
Declare your boundaries and be true to them. This includes those six feet of space you need when interacting with strangers, as well as the security of your home from intruders, and any energetic boundaries against news, media, and people that are not wanted or beneficial. You may also want to take this time to declare boundaries within your home, to carve out spaces that are practical and nurturing for you, and to set loving boundaries with your quarantine mates around those spaces.
Three: Move at your own pace.
Woodpeckers don’t worry about whether their drumming matches someone else’s or is up to societal snuff. They drum what they want to drum.
Woodpecker teaches us to move at a pace that is right for us, to march to the beat of our own drums. This is especially important right now when there are a thousand pressures to do things on someone else’s time, at a pace dictated by society. Resist the urge and allow yourself to move through this time at exactly the pace that is right for you. Simultaneously, woodpecker energy is available to us to help us set rhythms to get us out of undesired lethargy and entropy.
Four: Look below the surface.
The primary function of the woodpecker’s ability to drum with its head is to search for food. The woodpecker is especially adapted to climb trees in a way that most other birds cannot, to access areas that other birds can’t reach. Their beaks, tongues, eyes, ears, and heads are specially adapted to allow them to find and obtain sustenance from food that is unavailable to others.
They use their beaks and tongues to peel back layers of bark and grab hold of their food (which is mostly grubs, beetles, ants, and other bark-dwelling critters).
Woodpecker teaches us to see past the surface of the situation, to peel back layers of illusion, and to dig deep to find the truth that will sustain us. To look for the opportunities that others miss.
In these times, woodpecker energy supports us in seeing past the immediate challenges, difficulties, fears, and anxieties of the present moment, and to seek for what lies below the surface and can sustain us.
These are difficult times, but the world and the wild awaits our attention with lessons and energies that can sustain us and carry us.
Take some time to settle into your own rhythm, to listen for the truth, and to find the peace that comes from knowing our place in the world.
May you be well. May you be strong. May you make your way through this with love, courage, and confidence.
May you be here for it.