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The Flow of Life





Life, fortunately, can't help

but go on.

You can join it on its journey.

A bunch of bird brains

taught us its continuous

invitation.






"Northern flicker" is a flowery euphemism for a notoriously destructive urban bird, the woodpecker. A pair of them moved in, literally, inside the walls of our home twelve years ago and became lifelong squatters. It all started one spring with a single mysterious tap every few minutes and graduated into full bores of house erosion -- holes in cedar, insulation strewn everywhere, and snipped electrical wires. That bird couple kept us in shape. Upon hearing one tap near our closet, either my husband and I leaped out of bed at sunrise in our underwear and tried to stop the next tap, down three flights of stairs and through two locked doors.


Guess who continued to win.


We tried everything: Plastic owls, wavy cloth strips, banging pans. We covered the holes with mirrors and shiny CDs in the spring and covered their holes in the winter with putty. We spent hundreds of dollars on cedar siding replacements. We attached two nests to the house to thwart the destruction. We called animal control for trapping them (too much $$). We finally proved our diligence to the county and received a permit to shoot them with a BB gun (they are protected since they are migratory). But when we saw their babies teetering for their first flights, we threw away the permit.



We gave up and joined in the relentless flow of life. Ten years later, our extended family of flickers is living comfortably on every side of our home (unlike us, flickers are territorial and don't like to share space). Our home is surround-sounded by fledgling cheeps and birdsong all summer. Our gardens have built-in caretakers for pesky insects. The flickers have their own cleaning service -- us -- sweeping up when they spring clean their nests. Their presence protects our wrens from squirrels and kestrels.


When we sell our house someday, we'll list our holes in the cedar as a primary contributor to the two dozen birdsong melodies playing outside. A small price to pay for the benefit of nature's inherent power to keep on giving, even in the midst of resistance.


Barbara Lynn-Vannoy is the author of The 10 Greatest Gifts We Give Each Other: A Memoir on the Magic of Marriage Vows and upcoming children's book, Read Me To Sleep Tonight.



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