Seven words into the second grade spelling test, it hit.
“Locke, go tell Mrs. Mary that I couldn’t finish giving you your test,” I said desperately to the small child as I dashed to the bathroom.
“Oh, I know, it’s a twenty-four hour thing. That’s the one I had last week. Go home,” Mary said when I emerged from my own private hell.
Seventeen miles down state highway later, averting the water-line crisis on Upper Street in LittleTown, NC and dodging the two cows that got loose near the dude ranch, I hit the gravel and headed up the mountain towards home. Ahhhhhh. Nurturing myself feels good – a lot better than staying at work and pushing through the rest of the day. Better cancel my tutoring appointment this afternoon, too.
Of course, my first instinct was to go to bed, but in order to have a lengthy, comfortable rest I needed to heat the house and this required two trips to the shed for armfuls of wood. These days I have been burning white oak and poplar, some from last winter and some from eighteen months ago. The wood is dry and pops satisfactorily in the little Waterford stove. I used the kindling I collected on last week’s Mason jar sojourn and had the fire ablaze within minutes.
One chore remained, and that was bringing in a case of soy milk which I purchased in BigCity yesterday at the discount store. If I left it in the trunk it would freeze overnight, and even though I felt horrible, I lugged the twenty-eight pounds case up the drive and into the house. But on the way I heard a loud, distinct hollow sound that stopped me dead in my tracks…
It could be none other than a pileated woodpecker and a quick thrust of my eyes skyward confirmed my suspicions. I stared in awe of the sixteen-inch bird, noting that it was a healthy looking male. In the distance, I heard what I assumed to be its partner, also peck-peck-pecking away at dead white oak limbs.
The pileated woodpecker has always been an omen for me. For five consecutive days before I announced that I would leave my teaching career to pursue writing, I was visited by two of these birds (again, I assumed they were mates) multiple times a day in the little cabin I lived in at the time. When I started running again after a five month hiatus from a soccer injury, they appeared about fifty percent of the time just off the side of the trail, pecking away on fallen, rotting logs. In each case, they seem to indicate that I’ve made the right decision for my own health and well-being.
I did some research and discovered that symbolically, their black and white colors indicate change. They reveal that often if there are two things to choose from in life, it can be seen as “pretty black and white,” and making the positive choice for change is as clear and vibrant as the red fringes on the tops of the male woodpecker’s head.
Nurture. Bring the whole simmering pot down a notch.
It seems as though I’m on the right path.