Earth Drummer

Many of you know that I tend to think of a sighting in nature as a “sign” of something. Often, after spotting some new animal, bird or reptilian, I go running to the house and get on the computer to investigate just what the presence of this life form might mean. And, I have also mentioned that I get side-tracked all of the time with nature. I might spot a bird or an animal down in the canyon or through the kitchen window, and scurry out with my camera, hoping for a closer view of the critter. Tasks and projects for the day lay in wait, while I venture off to answer a call from the woodlands!

FD captured this image of a male pileated woodpecker in the canyon back in 2009.
FD captured this image of a male pileated woodpecker in the canyon back in 2009.

Last week, I was coming up to the house from the canyon, having just had a visit with Daisy deer (who by the way, is much improved with her eye condition), when I heard a loud drumming noise. I had heard this before, but never could make out the source, though I had a feeling it was an elusive pileated woodpecker. The pileated is not usually seen in this part of Oklahoma, but rather in the southeastern part of the state where the region is heavily wooded. Still, in 2009, FD managed to photograph a male pileated woodpecker in our woods. And the drumming sound I was hearing now was so loud it could only be this particular species.

I kept listening and, sure enough, finally spotted the flaming red head of the woodpecker in the trees at the top of the slope. I ran inside the house to fetch my camera, ultimately deciding the best shots could be taken from the kitchen window. My subject was not all that cooperative, but I still managed a few decent photographs, despite it hopping all around the tree trunk pecking for food.

Female pileated woodpecker looking for insects on a hackberry tree.
Female pileated woodpecker looking for insects on a hackberry tree.

After getting all the shots I could manage, I researched the habits and calls of the pileated woodpecker online and discovered that this was a female. Since I had heard this loud drumming sound in the woods over the past several years, I wondered if perhaps the pileated woodpecker had expanded its territory further west to our part of the state. Whatever the reason, I was excited to see this large, attractive bird in our woodlands.

As I continued my research, I looked for possible explanations for the appearance of this large woodpecker along my path. What did nature say about this intriguing specimen? I finally settled on a lovely webpage, “Woodpecker Medicine“, that helped me have a better understanding of my new friend.

I was first intrigued when I read, “Woodpecker is not only a medicine someone can carry, it is a Native American birth totem too. A WoodPecker (June 21 – July 21) birth totem is not the same thing as a spiritual totem or having a particular animal as a spirit guide. Those relationships are purely spiritual in nature. If WoodPecker is your birth totem, the animal acts as a teacher along your path specifically for spiritual understanding and growth. In other words, it is what you came here to learn!”  Well, this was interesting. My birthday fell into the period designated. And yes, I seemed to be learning, but aren’t we all?

“Their flight patterns are unique. Woodpeckers fly up, coast down then fly upwards again. Those with this totem often find that their path in life will not always conform to society’s standards and that their personal unique rhythm needs to be honored. Woodpeckers teach us to honor our personal truth and move through life with perseverance and inner strength. By staying grounded in our pursuits our goals can be obtained.”  Hmm, I always did consider myself an oddball, and never felt like conforming to society’s expectations and standards. I just did not seem to fit in. I often had difficulty finding friends who I felt respected my personal truth and perseverance in life. Most of the time people tried to tell me what to do. I would find myself unsure about how to proceed, or questioning my decision to follow my own path.

“Woodpecker speaks of not being hard-headed because they are able to use their beak to peck at trees.”  Guilty as charged. I have been known to be hard-headed and I did sometimes use my beak to make a point! Many times a loud voice was the only way I felt I could get people to listen to me, and not run all over me. Of course, that sometimes caused me to look like I had lost my mind or my temper.

“Woodpecker is telling us that even if something seems difficult to do, not to give up. To do what works, even if it is unconventional. To set your own pace, your own rhythm. This totem is the power of rhythm and determination.”  Well, did that ever speak to me! Once again, I had been struggling with balancing too many projects and finding very little personal time. Writing my “Daisy” book generally overwhelmed me. It ended up taking a back seat to everything else – because it was just too hard to proceed with organizing my thoughts and finding quiet time. I could barely keep up with this blog and my daily routine. I spent so much time hacking away at it a little bit here and there that I was not enjoying anything I was doing.

Apparently the insect population is not abundant yet. Our stylish lady of the woodlands flew off to the pecan orchard for better foraging!
Apparently the insect population is not abundant yet. Our stylish lady of the woodlands flew off to the pecan orchard for better foraging!

I thought of my friend Mockingbird, (“The Presence of Mockingbird”) and his message to sing my own song. Now the pileated woodpecker, in all of her majesty and flamboyance, had arrived to tell me to set my own pace and rhythm, to be unconventional, and to be determined.

Just as the birds seem to bring signs of the spring season, of new life and hope, they also teach us about the perseverance and determination of daily life. We all walk to the beat of a different drum, and isn’t that a wonderful thing?

© 2014 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


75 thoughts on “Earth Drummer

  1. My gosh, Lori, this really speaks to me. My birthday is July 6 and I feel like I could have written this! As you know, I’m also an “oddball” and conconformist, and I struggle with trying to do too many things and not making much progress on any of them. Wow, this gives me a lot to think about (off on another tangent, LOL).

    By the way, I’ve been photographing a Pileated Woodpecker in our yard recently too — our 2 acres is part of the territory of this mated pair, so we see them occasionally when they come to drill holes in our sassafras trees. I’ll have to share some of my pics with you sometime.

    And one more thing about animal totems — last week, before our latest blizzard (we got 7″ more of snow yesterday, sigh), I went for a walk in one of my favorite nature spots. I spotted a Turkey Vulture flying toward me, so I aimed my camera up and started shooting pictures. It circled directly over me, coming lower and lower in a tightening circle until I was afraid it was actually coming for me. (I don’t think I smell THAT bad, but you never know.) Anyway, I was thinking of you as I was having that close encounter, hoping to see a new post from you soon. Isn’t that cool?

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    1. Well, what a powerful comment and full of SIGNS!! LOL And no wonder we connect so much, oddballs that we are!

      I feel the turkey vulture is my “reminder” to allow nature to cleanse my mind and to glide and soar leaving troubles and worries behind. Animal totems or messages are of such importance – sometimes forever, and sometimes for the moment.

      I was surprised to discover (just now from your comment) that the pileated woodpecker is indeed, a year-round species in your part of the country. I would LOVE to see your photos!

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  2. You got my curiosity up with this post.
    I am a beaver, and in many ways it seems to fit…
    Oh dear!

    I love the pileated woodpecker and see them from time to time now that we live here. It always thrills me to hear their call “Kac-kac-kac-kac-kac” echoing as they fly overhead. I have tried many times to catch them with my camera, but so far have only produced miserable results. How lucky you are to have seen one on your place and to be able to capture it too!

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    1. I know Lynda! I felt so fortunate that morning not only to locate it in the trees, but to photograph it as well! It is also pleasing to know the pileated exists in this part of the state. While I know many people are not happy with them because of the damage they do, they are like any other life form, with importance to the balance of the ecosystem. Hmm, a beaver? I must look into that!!

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    1. I did a blog post on owls, , but there is no reference in it to totems. I hear owls here in our woods quite often, but they fly away as I approach. We have many raptors here, but all are very wild and difficult to photograph.

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        1. Owls are symbols if wisdom here in the US too, in Native American folklore, and present day. Night is Owl’s friend. It has great awareness of all that is around it at all times. It has predator vision, which means it sees clearly what it looks at. It has great intuition, and the courage to follow its instincts. Owl can see that which others cannot, which is the essence of true wisdom. If the Owl is someone’s personal medicine, they cannot be deceived about what they experience, no matter how it is disguised or hidden. Owl people may be a little frightening to be around, since they tend to know more about an individual’s inner life than that person knows about herself or himself. Owl medicine is wonderful to have. Those who carry it cannot be conned because their vision shows them the truth of the situation.

          Owl is a meat eater, which means it can be a fierce warrior if challenged, or if something dear to it is threatened. (Owl Medicine from birdclan.org)

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          1. Wow!
            Thanks for taking the time to get back to me on that one. Fascinating stuff!
            Thanks for the link.
            Coincidentally I have just finished reading Thirteen Moons.

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  3. Great post as usual. I have “seen” a woodpecker after several years through your pictures. As a child, we used to see scores of them in our garden in Northern India but those were with white and black stripes and a light chocolate brown head. We were often fascinated with the “drumming” sound, quite a phenomena of nature. It’s been years since we have been that close to nature. Your posts remind me of my childhood, easily the best part of life. Would give anything to get back to those days. Is the mad scientist who will one day invent the ‘time machine’ listening?

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    1. What a wonderful comment! I am living the best part of my life right now, here with nature. I think it would be lovely to be able to experience some of the “best” moments of many of our lives, be it going back in a time machine or living present day enjoying what is in front of us now. In so many ways I feel touched by my readers, that they share about their own lives or something of the present moment – I feel like I’m right there. I loved that you shared these memories of the woodpecker from your childhood! I can picture you as a young boy, full of mischief and delight, wondering about the fascinating drumming creature.

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  4. Oh how lucky to have the Pileated Woodie on your property. We don’t have them here is Central Texas or at least that I’ve ever heard about.

    I can relate to all that you have written. I don’t dance to the same drummer as most people I know. Their interests are hardly ever the same as mine. My kids call me eccentric and I had never thought of myself as such. What a revelation. 🙂

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    1. It’s a good thing to have realization that we are different, and to “own” it in a sense. I think we all have gifts to share – and thank goodness. It would be very boring to all have the same thoughts and ideas.

      Only the very eastern region of Texas is habitat for the pileated woodpecker. I love it because it is such a striking bird to observe, and it’s drumming is unbelievably LOUD! I suppose it’s a novelty to see one here, but since FD saw that one in 2009, there must be a few that have ventured this far west in Oklahoma.

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      1. Yes you are correct about east Texas habitat for the pileated. But birds do at times wander out of their range and that is why I wrote that none have been sighted- that I KNOW OF. Same thing with wild animals that at times are found out of their normal range and one will stray for what ever reason.

        I must say though that getting a pic of one in your neck of the woods is/was a “very good thing.” There must be a need for the pileated to have come to your area. Birds do expand their ranges at times. We now have Inca and White wing doves and 50 years ago there were none of these in central Texas. So called “normal ranges” for birds contracts and expands due to habitat loss which then increases the need for finding available food, protection, and the ability to nest successfully. Maybe you’ll be host to a new family of pileated woodpeckers. Wow that would be great. 🙂

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        1. I think that the river just a mile away, supports a lot of bird and wildlife, and when they venture out a bit, we tend to see them in our wooded area. We have been seeing a lot of raccoons lately which makes me wonder if food sources are a bit scant right now. When the leaves begin blooming and plants springing to life, we’ll see less and less of the wildlife since food will be abundant again. Insects are already flying around and I saw a lizard the other day… soon all of the critters will emerge. I believe spring is finally here!

          You mentioned white-wing doves. We have noticed those here too, just over the last 3 years. They did not exist here before. Now we’re seeing huge flocks of them in the winter months. I enjoy seeing the migrating species over winter. It’s always great to capture a visitor with the camera!

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  5. Love this post. I think energies come into our lives in many forms, to teach us what we need to know. I used to watch the pileated woodpeckers in the woods behind my parents’ home in Southern Ohio. Their sounds is very loud! Thank you for your insight, it does sound like some of the Australian Indigenous beliefs about nature, as well as the American Indigenous.

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    1. I agree with you on energies, messages – what we can learn from nature! For me, it all started by raising Daisy deer. Observing her and walking with her, I have learned to listen and tap into instinct. I have made great realizations about the impact of man on nature and all living creatures. It’s all very amazing and simple. We just have to be open to sensing, listening and observing. Thanks for your lovely comment!

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  6. I so enjoyed your post! Thank you! I have experienced and still experience the critters that cross our paths as signs and messages. It feels like our minds can distill and absorb more clearly when the message comes from a critter. Thanks again!

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    1. I agree Christine! I work outdoors a lot, so I am constantly alert to plant and animal life and the messages they bring. Quietness and simplicity is so much of their world, and it seems to work for us as well… if only we pay attention! Thanks for commenting!

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  7. Wonderful post, Big Sister! The totem definitely speaks your language, and with some thought, I realized it speaks mine as well (we do share the same birth totem, after all). I have always been fascinated by woodpeckers; I love to watch them drum. Your observations and close-connectedness with nature have certainly caused me to be more aware of my “natural” surroundings, and have more appreciation for them as well. My favorite part of this post was, “The animal acts as a teacher along your path specifically for spiritual understanding and growth.” This is you in my life, sister; my teacher. You have always guided me and helped me to grow.

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    1. Oh, my goodness, Jules. That just made my morning. Now I have these big, watery eyes and I can’t think at all. Thank you for those lovely words. My heart is filled to the brim right now! I love you so much Baby Sister.

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  8. Unfortunately we see few wild animals in my region. When I lived in Maryland (in the leafy suburbs) I was amazed by the variety and beauty of the birds and deer and miss that contact with nature. On my morning dog walk we would often hear a woodpecker pecking a tin chimney! I had no idea that the Native Americans had a zodiac, so I looked it up and apparently I’m a salmon 🙂

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    1. Henrietta, I just looked the Salmon totem/medicine up and from what I can tell, that does seem to fit you! Until I wrote this post I did not know about birth totems. Fascinating information indeed!

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  9. As much as I love the eagles and hawks, Pileateds leave me in utter awe. They’re huge, and brash and powerful. My house in the Minnesota was in the middle of the woods with lots of different woodpecker species. Every time the Pileateds came, it was an event. I couldn’t take my eyes off them.

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    1. Oh Sandy, you have described the pileated perfectly! I am always taken aback by that loud drum, sounds almost like someone hitting a ball with a bat in the nearby park! They’re LOUD. FD says they do a lot of damage to wooden high line structures in SE Oklahoma, so I can imagine they might obliterate any wooden construction or damage trees on a large scale. Still, what a sight to see in our pathetic woods (compared to SE Oklahoma). There must be something here that attracts them!

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    1. Louis, it’s the long “I”, from “pileum” which according to Merriam-Webster is “the top of the head of a bird from the bill to the nape”. Here in Oklahoma it’s pronounced both ways. I’m not proper about a lot of the English language, so I don’t correct anyone when they pronounce it with the short “I”. I actually didn’t know about the pileum until I wrote this post. Interesting what all we learn when we do a little research!

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  10. I’ve seen (and heard) a pileated once, a year or so ago. Magnificent bird, those.

    I’ve missed your blog while I’ve (again) been away, and am happy to find myself here again. Your interpretation of nature is always so beautiful. Hope you’re enjoying the last remnants of winter, Lori.

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    1. Hello Sid! I’m so glad to see you back – I hope you enjoyed your sabbatical! I think we are bidding winter farewell here in the south… this year Old Man Winter stayed a bit too long. Spring has made her arrival, finally. Daisy and Spirit are shedding hair in great quantities, and the leaves are about to emerge from their buds. Tonight a soft rain falls, and plants will soon spring to life.

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  11. The woodpecker in your photographs is a very handsome bird, Lori. Whilst we have birds in Australia which can extract their food from under the bark or from the wood of trees, we don’t have any which drill for their food in the way a woodpecker does.

    Yellow tailed black cockatoos will use their strong beaks to chew into wood to extract grubs.

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    1. I love watching the woodpeckers move up, down and around the trees in search of insects. They make a little hop all around the tree! They are certainly fascinating, and their call is one of a kind too. I hope I will be seeing the pileated more this spring. That striking crest is outstanding!

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  12. It seems I am a raven ….

    ‘Ravens and crows like to be together in numbers. They travel together, eat together, and live together. Raven people have this trait as well, preferring the company of others to being alone and on their own. They feel the happiest and most secure when they are with others. They work best when they are in a group, and are extremely loyal to any group that they are a part of, and like the Raven, they are always ready to defend it when necessary.’
    – HMMMM…. I prefer my own company rather then groups, but when I am in groups, I work well (most of the time), and I am loyal, so ok, I guess it’s almost spot on.

    ‘Like the birds, these people are often cautious and wary which may make it difficult for them to make decisions. They are often indecisive and slow to make up their minds, preferring instead to remain neutral rather than to choose one side or one thing over another. However, once they have made a decision, they will act on it with conviction.’
    – True in that I’m cautious (although sometimes I charge ahead…) and sometimes indecisive (usually over little decisions!). And true, once I have decided on something, I do it.

    ‘Since ancient times, the Raven and Crow have been associated with magick and mystery, and have been regarded as the guardian of secrets. Almost like magic, Raven people often have an uncanny ability to turn their wants and desires into realities. They are also usually very good at being discreet and keeping secrets.’
    – Everything I have wanted over the past 10 years, it has turned into reality, so also true. Since I’m not very good at making friends, I’ve never had to worry about keeping secrets 😉

    A great post once again – and its interesting to see how you read these signs; there is more meaning in the world around us than we may realise.

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    1. Thank you, Raven Rachel! What a wonderful birth totem you have. I think it’s all about how we perceive these totem characteristics… I find that I can relate to many of the critters in nature – or at the very least I can detect some type of message. It may be a message of the moment, or something we carry throughout life. That is what the vulture totem is to me – a reminder to glide and soar. I see vultures almost everywhere I go… so to me, it is a life totem.

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  13. That “Little engine that could” and that “tortoise” in the Tortoise and the Hare were good examples of just what putting your head down and perservering can do for you…just stop looking outside and get stuck in to what you have to do. It will be done before you know it :). I am almost in the same place as you…I think we are vernal equinox sisters of a sort. I can feel myself peeling off layers of habits and I am starting to question my need to be wading my way through blog posts (many of which are not even interesting to me any more predominately vegan food blogs…) in order to satisfy some inner control freak. I used to love pure researching…sort of get a mental pin and close my eyes and stick it somewhere online and find out everything that I could about it. I love that degree of freedom that I seem to have lost in my daily routine that seems cram packed full of nothing.

    I love that woodpecker. I think that we can all learn something from her simple quiet (well…maybe “quiet” isn’t the right word in this case! 😉 ) determination 🙂

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    1. Oh, you know me well, Fran! I am glad to at least be cognizant of what hinders my pace and rhythm. I am determined to do what I love and let the rest be! I need to do like you and peel the layers of silly habits away. 😀

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      1. Its really hard to do when we are “supposed” to be taking part in the myriad of social media doing the rounds today…they don’t like you to back out ;).

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        1. I know… and I have kept out of social media for the most part. As far as reading other blogs, i keep with those I love reading and some who have been with me from the start. But often, I don’t have time anymore to keep up with all of that. I’m just not geared to be into everything. It’s exhausting!

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          1. I have been finding that out more and more. All it takes is a night away and I end up being unable to manage my RSS Feed Read 😦 I am trying to wade my way through it and am realising that I am going to have to start tossing out a few blogs that I am not personally invested in. The real world is calling me and I just want to read a book! 😉

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    1. Daisy’s eyes are much improved. I still take warm water down with a soft cloth and clean her eyes each morning (if she’ll let me – she doesn’t always allow me!). I have watched Daisy and Spirit mutual grooming each other’s eyes so I imagine they take care of each other if it isn’t too bad. Earlier though, Daisy’s were very messy. I guess I’m the mama and she knows I’ll do it! LOL

      What is this about Pinocchio and a woodpecker? Are ye pulling my leg?

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  14. Oh my gosh, how exciting! I’d love to see one of these birds.
    And I also have to say that Mike’s comment cracked me up!

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    1. Oh that isn’t the first time Mike has pulled one over on me! He’s a clever one… I have to laugh at myself – I’m far too serious sometimes! Yes, the pileated woodpecker is a sight to see, and I hope this pair has settled in our neck of the woods. It would be lovely to see them more often and observe their habits.

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  15. What a rare sighting. A wonder. So many lessons and gifts freely waiting in the woods. Your words are just as lovely and clearly sounding.
    The birds are really singing early each morning here – worth getting out for.
    Stay warm!

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    1. Ah! Another chilly morning here in the Midwest. It is a lovely time though, with Spring making her appearance and the animals and birds more active. I love all of these messages and words of wisdom from nature. Wouldn’t it be grand if humans were as delighted as the birds, to fly and sing with joy? Thanks for your always wonderful comments!

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  16. I think that’s why i’m so attracted to your personality Lori 😛 you’re an oddball, and a free spirit. I feel good when I read your adventures to capture the perfect image of an animal with its full personality out. It makes me feel less odd about trying to relate to every animal I see.

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    1. Anouchka, that just made my day! What a wonderful comment! We often find oddities in life, and we can appreciate their gift as well! Oh, and I’m SO happy to see you are back!!

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  17. Goodness. What a revelation for you and in a way a consolation that you Are being who you should be. Having a totem is a curious thought. One I have never thought applies to me for some reason. How does one discover ones totem like that. Often the sparrows are diving around me as they fly past, their flocks part on either side of my head, always taking me by surprise, more than once in the last few weeks I have felt a wing brush my cheek (they are not soft) with a little twit of “oops sorry did not see you there… he he” Maybe I have a sparrow as my totem. I do believe that you are where you are meant to be. As guardian of your woods. I have always thought of you as a ethereal creature standing still, amongst the trees watching for us. Hmm. Well. I suppose I should do the bloody bollocksy housework. Sigh. No sun, no warm and the barn is settled so I may as well do some deeply unchallenging laundry. More sighs. Take care darling girl.. c

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    1. I tend to think of totems in different ways. The vulture is a daily totem, reminding me to “glide and soar” and to “leave the carcasses of troubles behind”. I don’t know who thought up the woodpecker totem – I just happened on the birth totem information while researching woodpecker, but it did fit me. Every animal or bird that I feel a connection with can be a totem or a messenger, or even be animal medicine. Daisy deer is medicine to me. It’s a deeply spiritual thing for me… my relationship with not only Daisy, but the local deer, has changed my life. I have dreamed of running with the deer, being free to leap and jump, having acute hearing, sight and smell. I remember you talking about the birds landing on you when you spoke of that photograph of you in the red dress so many years ago. You seem to have a connection with birds still.

      I like that thought, “guardian of the woods”. And I love the word “ethereal”. Both of those suit me – how did you know?

      I wish the weather would warm up – I remember the hard winter life in the north. I’m happy to be further south now. It isn’t nearly as brutal as your neck of the woods. Here’s hoping you soon get a lovely warm front from the south! I’ll huff and puff and blow up your way, ok? I too am tackling the laundry today… and ironing! I hate to even say ironing. Most people don’t even do that anymore!

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      1. Every time he comes there is a birth or a death. I only hear him once in a while, maybe once every few years, always right at my window, always in the dark of night. He terrifies me. Out here he is a huge barn owl. At home (NZ): the smaller morepork. I don’t think of him as a totem. When my best friend died in NZ, an owl cried for three nights outside my bedroom window. Donna had been kept on life support for that whole time, but I was out of reach and did not find out til the day they allowed her to die. Then the owl was gone too. He has only been back once since then. The night my daughter in law delivered my grandson. Later I heard that she had had an emergency cesarean section, things went wrong and the floor of the operating room was so slick with blood the doctor skidded in it. I sometimes wonder if I should be terrified of the owls or grateful that they are watching for me. Of course I am a very pragmatic person. I look for sensible explanations for everything. But .. well… there you are. The little birds are different. They are playful.

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        1. Some Native American tribes here are fearful of the owl. I’ve heard that if one visit’s three nights, that a death will occur. I have not studied much on that… but it appears this has been your experience. We hear owls hoot in the woods nearly every night, and I have come to love the sound. I’ve seen a few fly through the woods in magnificent form. I always stop and stare in awe of them. I think, like you, that the little birds have a more positive message, or perhaps they are just drawn to you… like so many of us. I haven’t had much time to comment on your blog posts lately, so I just click the “Like” button, but Celi, your words are like butter on warm toast. I just love your daily writing!

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          1. Wow, i did not know that about the owl and three nights.. chills.. however Donna my friend was a glorious woman and a great loss. She died in the bush (you would call it the forest or the woods) staying in a hut way up in the hills for the weekend, of a sudden bleed in her brain .. in her thirties.. with friends .. so it seems fitting that her death was announced to me by an owl and reading this here makes it even more full of portent.. hmm.. have a good evening, it seems we are in safe hands.. I am off out to milk my cow.. c

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  18. I don’t know if I’ve ever had the pleasure of a pileated woodpecker sighting! We have many downy woodpeckers and flickers around, and growing up in Iowa I remember the red headed woodpeckers. I love them, and their rhythms! I too enjoy the findings of following animal medicine very much! Animal Speak by Ted Andrews is one of my favorite books for this. Happy spring!

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    1. Oh, Margaret, I will have to pick up that book! Thank you so much for mentioning it! I’m always looking for a good read or reference book! Happy spring to you too. I believe it’s just getting started here in Oklahoma! YAY!

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