The temperature is -12 outside and my normally can’t-wait-to-go-outside dogs are just plain uninterested in going out; they are content to stay all snuggled and warm inside. The birds, however, are alive with chatter and activity this morning… especially at the big evergreen, where yesterday I hung a dozen peanut butter rolls. The feeder, too, is full and there are friends who partake in a different kind of treat there …. black oil sunflower seeds are abundant as well as suet … which, now, has the attention of a red-headed woodpecker. The brightness of the plumage that gave him his name plays against the snowy backdrop and the deep green of the fir tree. He hangs motionless in the frigid temps, as if surveying the cake and deciding where he should direct his efforts next. Then, he cocks his head to one side and then the other, positioning his feet on the lower edge of the cage that holds the treat. Once balanced, he raises and lowers his beak in true woodpecker fashion as he dives into it… all while remaining precariously hung on the side of a feeder a good 10 feet above the frozen ground.
Although the woodpecker is joined by several doves, that curiously peer around the corner at the suet cage and his peculiar presence on it … his gaze remains riveted on his target.
A puff of snow from a nearby branch where a blue jay has taken flight moves the eye to the peak of the feeder and its gentle landing place. The woodpecker doesn’t seem to notice as it remains still and focused on the cake. A squawk from the jay brings a flurry of seven other jays to the feeder, the ‘all clear’ signal being well received. Still, the woodpecker remains unperturbed by the new guests. Even with all the movement and chaos around him, the woodpecker’s focus never wavers from the cake. He is singularly focused … this is what mindfulness looks like.
As New Year’s resolutions and promises are made, we can all learn from the resolve of the woodpecker. Amid commotion and bursts of activity around us, when deluged with crowds who invade our space and even in extreme weather conditions … we, too can be mindful. We can resolve to concentrate on a singular activity, to hone in on a sole task, to be present in the moment we’re in without being distracted by the busy-ness of others. We can immerse ourselves in what is going on right in front of us with a little practice and attention.
We can resolve to limit our habit of getting swamped by multitasking and having time slip away unseen, while we stay in our heads reviewing ideas, sorting schemes or endlessly going over our thoughts. 2018 can be the year that we change our mindset from out-molded habits and replace it with stillness that keeps us in the now. We can resolve to stop wasting a good part of our lives dwelling on past regrets and fantasizing future disasters, and instead take on being here now… where everything really happens.