Woodpecker Holes

“Sam. The woodpecker is back.” Through the kitchen window, I can see tufts of pink insulation scattered in the grass. That hairy woodpecker is serious about living in the wall of our house. He pecked through the knot hole and has a perfect opening.

In the early years as a single mom living on Flesher Pond, I had a myriad of jobs. One was to climb the ladder and cover the holes poked in the cedar siding. All year long, the hairy and downy woodpeckers insist on making a home in the walls, so the house is covered in “covers.”

One spring, I came up with a brilliant idea. The round lid of the frozen orange juice can was the right size. I could spray paint it brown and use brown caulking to seal it over the hole. The back side of the house is now pocked with a dozen brown lids, all uniform. They make an ice-breaker to conversation around the campfire. “Say, what are those for?”

We no longer drink orange juice in the can, and I married Sam a few years ago, so he now has the task. He gets out the ladder and climbs to investigate. “Yup. He’s already moved in.”

Rummaging around in the shed for a small cover, Sam grabs the first thing at hand, just like a man. He comes out with something akin to a large cutting board and nails it over the hole. The front of the house looks like a mad carpenter at work (although when he is building or doing finish work he is wonderfully meticulous).

It’s a good thing he leaves the ladder standing. It gives me something to focus on while I wash dishes. “Sam, I hear that woodpecker again. It sounds like it’s in the same spot, although I don’t see another bird.”

We look and listen for a while, and then I wonder, “You couldn’t have nailed that bird inside?”

Dutifully he climbs back up the ladder, cocks his head, and listens. He carefully removes the cover and the startled woodpecker flies out. It had pecked for all it was worth in its new pitch-black home, sounding like, “Let me out, let me out! I’ll never do it again!”

And yet, he comes back late afternoon, or his brother does. Why can’t they poke holes in the trees?

My life is pocked with brown orange juice lids covering all kinds of holes – wrong words spoken at the wrong time, hurt feelings, misunderstandings. Bad attitude, envy, stubbornness. A life-filled with small regrets that add up to a complaining life instead of a grateful heart. I’m learning to “let them out” so I don’t go on about them. Each day, I wake up with “His mercies are new every morning” and try to write good and peaceful things on my heart.

The orange juice lids don’t matter, don’t compromise the integrity of the house. What matters is whether I nail the bird inside.

“I have to try, but I do not have to succeed. Following Christ has nothing to do with success as the world sees success. It has to do with love.” Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water

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