Northern Flicker

Sat, Jan 1, 2011

General, Outdoors

Northern Flicker

The year 2010 seems to have begun and then ended with a woodpecker.

In January 2010 we three enrolled in studio art twice a week, and completed six months of instruction. For me, it had been 31 years of not taking an art class; I sat beside the boys as we learned to draw big images of birds, using a photo of one as a reference.  I chose a photo of a woodpecker.

And the completed pencil-and-charcoal woodpecker was framed, and then hung in our dining room, in between the boys’ bird drawings.

With this in mind, you can imagine my surprise on December 31, 2010 when that exact bird smacked into our cabin window.

We tossed the poor creature some bits of healthy bread.

There was a sudden thud, almost like some kid had whipped a snowball at the glass.  But we’re the only guests right now—it’s the off season.  I looked out, then down, and then I saw it.  My woodpecker! Its black and orange wings were spread out over the crisp snow. The bird blinked, sat upright, yet didn’t move otherwise.  I googled its markings and colors and learned that it is called a northern flicker.

So after a few minutes, I sent the boys out there to toss it some hunks of 7-grain bread. We all wanted to feel like we were helping our little friend. “That’s the bird from your picture!” the kids said, each grabbing a slice of bread and then their snow boots.

It eventually came out of stun-mode, drew its splayed wings closer to its puffy chest, then got itself up and flew away.

I adored this coincidence.  The Maidu indians, native to this part of the Sierras, believe that the northern flicker is sacred; its feathers make up the ceremonial Maidu headdress.  A woman here well versed in Maidu culture told me that a flicker hitting my window has spiritual significance for my life.

My pencil-and-charcoal northern flicker woodpecker, anno 2010

What does it mean?  That the taking up of art after so many years was a significant breakthrough, not only for myself, but also for my parenting?

That my decision this year to take part in the kids’ creative endeavors such as studio art led to an overall rethinking of our journey, leading us to explore the California coast with a 2-man tent, then go live in a village in Central America?

The decision to unschool/homeschool indeed came with a thud:

This is your life.  Right now.  You don’t have to be plugged into the system if the system isn’t working for you.

Once the initial shock of this realization wears off, you can take flight.

Leave a Reply