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Alex Douglas-Kane shares her experiences and understanding of Discover Nature Awareness

Saturday, 24 August 2013

The Three-toed Messenger
Peter Friebel from Sweden sent this in about his experience with a Woodpecker. I thought I would share it with you and I have added on the end two other stories in particular the one about Zana is coming. This will help build on Peter’s story.

The Three-toed Messenger
During one of my bushcraft courses this summer in Sweden, I was out with my students on a hike through the wilderness. On the last day we were making our way back to the rowing boat we crossed the lake system with. After crossing the lake it is only just a few km walk back to the school.

When we were about 30 minutes away from where we left the boat, we encountered an environment that was ravaged by a forest fire some years ago. It is very interesting to see the evolution of natural repair, we spent some time there. Eventually we decided to continue on to the boat. Suddenly, a small bird came flying straight for us and perched on one of the scorched tree trunks only 2 meters from us. I recognised it to be a Three-toed woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus).

This reminded me of a story Geoffrey told me. He said me that he had learnt from the San Bushmen that, whenever a woodpecker fly’s towards you, you can expect to get a visitor soon. I relayed this story to my students and also the fact that, since I learned of this phenomenon, I had not been able to prove it wrong! Obviously there was some scepticism among the students. "You'll see! Be mindful of that next time you meet a woodpecker in this fashion" I replied. We continued with our hike.

We were distracted by various interesting plants and geological formations but after an hour or so we finally arrived at the boat. After maybe 15 minutes of rowing, one of the students pointed behind me, off to the right. "There is a small boat with an outboard motor coming straight for us!" After a few minutes the boat started to slow down and was approaching us. The person in the boat grabbed our boat and said "Hi Peter!" It was the owner of the little shelter we had used the night before, deep in the wilderness. I have been out on that lake for many years but I have never met anybody while rowing there, let alone somebody specifically coming to talk us. We talked for a while and told him about our wonderful stay at his little shelter and lake, about 20 minutes later we continued on our way and so did he, he was going to fish that evening.

Obviously I had to say to my group: "You see! Call or mail me when you have a woodpecker flying straight at you and you do not have a visitor some time later." They have not yet called or mailed me.

Post Mortem
I do not recommend that you try to analyse things like this. Just go with the flow. But I do want to respond to what one student said about our experience. He called it "conditioned synchronicity". We discussed it for a bit and I was very happy that he thought about it that way. He was doing a tracking/awareness course with me and from what I taught him up to that point he kind of formed the theory that the woodpecker is perceived as sign. From that moment the tracker will track other sign he believes may be connected with the event. He is effectively setting up reality to fit with what he is tracking. Somehow, the tracker, the woodpecker and the visitor are all aware of and influencing the reality that might be.  This became a very nice philosophical discussion (including even theoretical physics). I will spare you that one right now but I liked the fact he was taking a completely different view to this than the one he would undoubtedly have taken prior to his course.

The Woodpecker led the Concentric Ring
During the tracking course I was teaching on at the weekend and I was explaining to the group about concentric rings/bird language and also how the San Bushmen talk about Zana (The Woodpecker) being the first bird to let them know if anyone was coming.

A short while after explaining this I heard a Great-spotted Woodpecker give off its alarm call and as I looked up and called to the group to pay attention, a Great-spotted flew right past us and some ten seconds or so later the Tit's and other birds started to burst through the woods in hot pursuit one might say of the woodpecker, it appeared that they were following the woodpeckers lead on which direction to fly in, away from the potential danger that they perceived was around.

We then scanned the woodlands in the direction the birds had flown from and sure enough there was a whole bunch of people walking along the broad walk in the woods. I was only saying to the group just prior to this incident that sometime during the course I will try and throw a concentric ring while they were in their Sit-spots. Well, after that there was no need to throw one, nature as always had done the job for me.

Zana – Someone is coming
The San Bushmen call the Woodpecker (my favourite bird) Zana, they said that when the Zana calls, it is telling them that someone will soon visit them and indeed each time this happened they pointed it out to me and soon afterwards someone did visit us.

This got me thinking just the other day. I remember as a young boy at boarding school I saw my first ever woodpecker on the school lawn, it was the Green Woodpecker and from that point on I became interested in birds. However, when I left school I no longer pursued my interest in birds, not until I had joined the army and was posted to Germany.

One day I was out walking in the local woods near to my house when heard an usual sound as I was drawn to this sound I looked up and there flying right over me was my very first Black Woodpecker a magnificent bird, simple in colour but quite powerful in its presence and it has become my number one bird. Once again my interest in birds was fired up and it has been the case ever since, going from strength to strength.

I see the Woodpecker as a spiritual bird with a message, its undulating flight, reminds me of how life can be with its ups and downs and sometimes just before alighting on a tree, the woodpecker changes its course at the last minute to land on a different tree, and this is how it has been for me in life often changing course at the last minute and then experiencing a new and amazing journey, for example when I was leaving the army I was going to live in Germany where my children live, but at the last minute while serving in Bosnia I changed my mind and for some unknown reason and to every ones dismay, I decided to return to the UK.

And I can tell you I have no regrets, my life has been as colourful now as it was then but in quite a different way. So maybe the visitor who was coming to visit me all them years ago with the Green Woodpecker and again in Germany with the Black Woodpecker, maybe that was my creator.
In fact I know it was.

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