Poor Will's Almanack: March 15 - 21, 2011

Mar 15, 2011

Poor Will’s Almanack for The Fifth Week of Early Spring, the Sixteenth Week of the Natural Year

From time to time, I am visited by depressions, sometimes light, sometimes deep. The morning of March 12th, I woke up to one of those darker moods in which nothing seemed right or meaningful.

Staring out the window and nursing my emotions, I heard the knocking of a yellow-bellied sapsucker on the siding of the house. She had been there before; a yellow-bellied sapsucker had appeared in the middle of March to tap at my siding nearly every year for more than a decade.

She comes just once a spring on her way to somewhere. If she is not the same bird each year, then maybe a daughter or grand-daughter following a family tradition, taught by her parents that for good luck, or maybe for the taste of a certain kind of beetle emerging from the cedar just before equinox, she should stop and check the wood.

And that simple knock, which I would have missed had I been busy at more practical things, brought flooding in the whole optimism of spring. The isolation I'd been feeling dissipated immediately. The bird's presence and her history were all I needed to come back from what seemed to be a hopeless funk.

In my joy, I blew the whole incident out of proportion. I allowed the arbitrary act of a sapsucker to reassure me about the good order of the entire world. Things were not, as my mood had told me, out of sync and empty, but rich and all in place if only I would listen.
Perhaps, I thought, fortune was no more or less than this. Maybe sense and virtue, immediate pleasure and lasting meaning, were as free and as accessible.

And if the transient yellow-bellied sapsucker could wield the power of happiness, I might wield it too.

Next week on Poor Will's Almanack: notes for the sixth week of early spring. In the meantime, listen for the teachings of a yellow bellied sapsucker or a robin…or a sparrow.