Internal Frenzy

It’s busy, busy, busy so I haven’t had a chance to sit and watch wildlife or eavesdrop on nature. My internal reading: Maxed Out!

Not only is it the end of the semester (and a short semester at that) but I’m also prepping for the second short summer semester which begins Monday. Since I’ve had several cases of plagiarism among my students this term, I need to create a lesson plan to better get through to these young adults how wrong it is.

But that’s not all. This weekend I’m heading to a writing conference in Orlando. I have to get ready for that too!

I can’t wait! As exhausted as I am, I’m ready for the frenzy of all the info, the enthusiasm, and interacting with other authors.

Can we leave yet?

Messages from Nature

Nature centers me. It always has; I recall spending summer afternoons gazing at the clouds, looking for images as they slowly billowed and rolled across the sky or traipsing through fields investigating bugs and plants up close. So, spending a few minutes watching the leaves blow or an anhinga drying itself at the pond resets my internal frenzy to “calm.”

This morning I came eye-to-eye with a morning dove as it clung to the screen on my lanai. It remained there even when I moved closer to the screen. I could see the unique coloring of its feathers and imagine how soft they’d feel. What an amazing gift to watch it up-close for close to five minutes!

Last week I came face-to-face with a rabbit as I was leaving for campus. I’ve seen a hare across the fairway at dusk and watch a variety of birds and squirrels from my lanai each day, but I’ve never seen a rabbit.

I was amazed that it didn’t hop away, startled when I emerged from the stairwell. Instead, it startled me. It did hop about three feet toward a hedge, then continued cleaning itself, much as my cats used to do. Was it someone’s pet, set loose on the golf course that winds among the condos and villas around here? It seemed so tame, too used to a human infringing on its morning routine.

Wanting to observe it, I wandered around to the other side of the hedge and watched it. It paused to look at me but quickly continued grooming, exactly as my cats would have done.

My mood was lightened by this encounter, since I don’t have time to enjoy coffee on the lanai while watching wildlife on the days I teach College Writing Skills. Then I recalled about a month ago when one of the writers in my critique group brought a novel that caused our conversation to turn to animal totems. Where these wildlife run-ins simply a way to connect with nature? Or is there a message for deeper meaning behind them?

I’ve heard that air animal totems are supposed to be “winks from God” which is why many people report seeing a unique bird or white dove visiting them after the loss of a loved one. I felt encouraged by the visit from this morning dove. But what message might this rabbit be trying to send me? Why hadn’t it hopped away? Aren’t rabbits as skittish as squirrels? Instead, I was the one startled.

I considered this as I drove to campus. Life lately has been intense and ultra busy; season generally provides a full schedule but this year was busier than usual. Perhaps I’m supposed to slow down and trust my gut, like the rabbit; no need to flee unless there’s danger. On the tails of that schedule the summer is promising to be filled with family events and positive news. (One of my books is finally making it to print and I’m looking forward to an upcoming conference when I’ll get to see a good friend.) Maybe a sense of peace, anticipation, and celebration is what these creatures were trying to tell. That sounds like a good story to believe in. I’ll trust in it.

An NF book is born

I learned why woodpeckers would bother drilling on glass or metal. It’s a way to mark territory–or make their presence known. This makes a lot of sense; it’s only been a few months since I heard the glass tapping and that’s about the time I noticed many more woodpeckers around here. Tapping on glass is incredibly loud (I’ve heard it coming from a neighboring building) and it reverberates. What a way to “notify” other woodpeckers in the area.

I also discovered some interesting facts. I had no idea that these birds have a long, sticky tongue they use to extract insects, spider eggs, and insect larva from the holes they drill in trees. The Northern Flicker, a type of woodpecker, actually spends much of its time on the ground collecting ants with that sticky tongue.

Woodpeckers have feet designed to allow them to walk up and down tree trunks. Unlike other birds, they have two toe claws in the front an two in the back to prevent them from tipping back or falling as they drill into trees. They use their stiff tail feathers as further support and have muscles in their necks that serve as shock absorbers as they hammer into trees and branches. There is even a sap-sucking woodpecker which drills into a tree and extracts the sap, instead of feeding on insects. This type of woodpecker actually damages, even kills, trees.

Incidently, what I thought were red-headed woodpeckers are probably either ivory-billed or pileated woodpeckers. All those I’ve seen have had a cap of red on the crown; however, this is common with most species, except the flicker. The red-headed woodpecker has a fully red head and neck. I’ve definitely seen those when I lived in Michigan, but thought they were the males while the red-capped birds where the females.

So, now I’m eager to observe the next woodpeckers as they hammer out a meal. And I’m gathering more information about these birds. Perhaps I have an article based on this “wondering.” Certainly I have the seeds (and a bit of the research done) to begin a children’s book on these interesting birds.

Wondering About Woodpeckers

In the past three weeks I have seen dozens of woodpeckers. One was a red-headed woodpecker—it was huge compared to the others and it had the fluted crown or V-shaped feathers at the back of its head. The others may be the same few birds I’ve seen repeatedly but it’s rare to see (or hear) one let alone being able to watch so frequently as they hammer and poke at the tree trunks.

This morning one pummeled the metal trim on the roof of the condo next door. Sometimes I hear a woodpecker hammering on the metal roof of the carport. I always assumed it was stabbing a succession of insects and then moving on to a tree. But this morning I clearly saw the hammering only–Ta-ta-ta-ta-tap. This reminded me of about month ago when a reverberating tapping yanked me from deep sleep. It was a Saturday morning and the only day in months I’d had the luxury of sleeping in.

I staggered to the front door. No one there. Now the same echoing tap startled me again. Rubbing my eyes, I stumbled into to the living room;I heard it again. Now I saw it, too. A medium-sized woodpecker clung to the screen of my picture window and I watched as it drilled against the window pane yet again. I cringing, bracing for shards of glass to land on the window sill and tile.

The glass didn’t shatter, and the woodpecker flew off. My heart continued the rapid-fire pounding that matched the early-morning tapping of the woodpecker. Of course, I couldn’t return to sleep after such an invigorating wake-up!

I’m left wondering why these birds do that. It would be annoying except for the fact that I now recognize that sound—of drilling on glass—and mine is not the only window targeted. I wonder, will I learn to distinguish the drilling of one type of woodpecker from another?

Meditating, Naturally

One of my favorite ways to begin the day is to slip outside while the coffee’s brewing. I have an incredible view of a pond surrounded by greenery—trees, shrubs, and tropical vegetation—and a multitude of wildlife. The sun rises in the front of the building and I’m able to watch as it slowly illuminates the pine trees just beyond my lanai.

Squirrels play tag in the trees, causing the scales of pine bark to crackle and the branches to rustle as they bounce from branch to branch. Meanwhile birds sing and call as egrets and Louisiana herons stalk fishes in the pond. An occasional foursome interrupts the natural serenade–some silent except for the crack of the club to its tiny round target, and others whose curses or conversations echo the second tee.

Once my coffee is ready, I sip it as I listen and watch, allowing my mind to ponder the drape of the long white pine needles or the patterns in the fanned palmetto fronds. It’s sort of a meditation, this routine; a quiet but energizing start to my day. It’s a luxury I can indulge more frequently during the summer. After this ritual, I’m ready to put pen to paper as I record the day’s beginning in my journal and then turn to filling a blank screen with words.