When you’re pretty sure your spirit animal is a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

I SPEND A GOOD BIT of time alone these days, but for the characters in the novel I am working to finish. It’s good work, solitary work, work that takes focus. And so I have routines that ground me.

  1. I am committed to an early start;
  2. I have a Yeti mug of coffee (prepared by my husband) just the way I like it: 2/3 Starbucks French Roast & 1/3 Eight O’Clock Coffee Hazelnut, skim milk heated and frothed;
  3. Quiet. And if there is not quiet, a noise machine to cancel extraneous sounds;
  4. Essential oils in the diffuser, typically Wild Orange or Tangerine for energy and optimism;
  5. Standing desk for ergonomic accuracy, better posture and less back pain (I am a believer);
  6. Desk and laptop positioned for maximum positive energy flow in my feng shui-ed mountain studio.

Seems awfully fussy, now that I write it. But it’s every bit true.

SO ON THIS PARTICULAR day my head is down and I’m well into it (and going at a pretty good pace) when I hear, just outside the studio door, peck peck peck, peck peck, peck peck. A bird, of course, a woodpecker, I imagine. But this is a metal sound, not wood, so a woodpecker pecking on what? The roof? The gutter?

This is certainly curious.

I step away from the edit. I pick up my camera, slide open the studio’s glass doors, and move onto the deck to investigate.

Sure enough he flies. But he doesn’t go far–just to the tree–the one right there, closest to me.

I raise the lens, snap a shot.

And here he comes, headed straight for me and the deck! I jump, it surprises me so, and right there on the deck’s railing he lands.

He is not three feet away! Might be two! And he is as curious as I.

We regard each other in wonder. I snap another photo, he tilts his head.

I snap one more, he looks on.

I take a step toward him and he does the same–move away he does not!–he is far too interested, apparently, in what I am doing to take off in flight.

We stay like that a good while, the baby woodpecker and I, until finally I say out loud, as much for my benefit as for his:

I do believe you are my muse. Or maybe you are my spirit animal. Yes, you are important to me little bird, and I thank you for showing up.

This he seems to acknowledge. Then he lifts off and heads back to the tree where he lands, turning once again to look at me, then takes flight.

And I slide open the glass door, step back inside. I smile, and I get myself back to work.

XXOO

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