It was still this afternoon as I walked through the forest by my house. The midday heat had something to do with it, I'm sure. A temperature gauge showing 80 would be a welcome sight to many East Coasters and Midwesterners this July, but for Pacific Northwesterners like me, blue skies and temps above 75 engender panic, leaving us gasping for breath and looking for the nearest air-conditioned building. Our furred and feathered friends don't like the heat much either, which is why my favorite walking spot was so quiet.
All the better to hear the persistent tap-tapping of a Downy Woodpecker. A quick perusal of my field guide indicated that he's the smallest American woodpecker found north of Mexico. At 6 1/2 inches long, he's just over half the size of his cousin the Northern Flicker and a whopping third of the size of the flashy Pileated Woodpecker. And yet, despite his diminutive appearance, he was unphased by the 200-foot Douglas fir he was exploring.
He dug into it with gusto, not stopping his urgent quest for bugs and grubs even when I approached and noisily fumbled with my phone. He scrambled off to one side and up the trunk and I stepped back, gazing toward the sky into the boughs of the newly dead tree. It was an old one, easily 100 years old, and I feared my friend the woodpecker had bitten off more than he could chew.
He seemed confident though. Day by day, he'd drill holes in the bark, working his way up and down and around the splendid snag. Calmly, diligently poking and searching for his livelihood, he had faith that he could conquer this tree, size be damned.
He shared his confidence with me, this tiny messenger of perseverance. Slowly, persistently, a little bit every day, he will conquer that Doug fir and move to the next and the next. I aspire to do the same. I hope you will join me from the height of your own snag.