How a Pagan Goes to Church: Woodpecker Totem Song

Woodpecker totem

In this week’s Cathedral of Nature, I was greeted by my resident woodpecker in the backyard.

Technically, he wasn’t in my back yard.  This tree is on community property about six inches from my property line.  The pine died around the time Hurricane Opal (1995) hit my home and, while I removed other damaged trees in my yard, there was nothing I could do legally about this one dead pine and the local homeowners’ associations all claimed it wasn’t their problem because it was in a greenbelt area and they couldn’t justify the expense.

woodpecker totem tree

At first, I was annoyed by its presence.  Then it became a family joke, and now…well, now I respect this old tree.

Over the years, I expected the next little breeze to arrive to knock it over, either onto the sidewalk on community property or to break up in its fall and end up smashing my vegetable garden.  Only…little breezes didn’t touch it.

Nor did tropical storms or even Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

Or any storm since.

It just stands and stands and stands, against all odds.

A family member who is an expert in timber appraisal stood a reverent distance from it and proclaimed that it would stand longer than most trees in the area because of its hard core.  The outer case may flake away with time, but the core is strong.   There’s a lesson there from Mother Nature, but beyond that, I’ve come to love this old tree because it is a landmark to woodpeckers in the area, including the ones who nest in my yard.

woodpecker totem

Many times every spring, summer, and autumn, I hear this woodpecker and members of woodpecker family at this tree, hammering away.  When I do, I stop and remind myself of what the woodpecker as a totem represents.   It tells me to find my own rhythm.  Listen to my own cycles and patterns, and settle into the rhythm that suits me best.