Defining your destiny
The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker could have been known as, say, the Red-headed Headbanger or Jackhammer. Just imagine selling your old moped, trading in your scooter, and getting a Harley.
Oh yeah, in a moment – with a stroke of a pen – things could have been different for this poor little bird. Much different. A whole lot better. Exit disrespect and humiliation. Enter attitude and excitement, strength and determination. And either label would have worked; both would have been accurate descriptions. Different focus. Same bird.
Might be a moral to this tree-top story for a few creatures on the ground below.
Yes, as this tale is still mournfully told in the YBS community, some birdie had to stick their big, bright, yellow, belly right out there for everyone to see. There they were, strutting their stuff, standing in front of the naming committee on that fateful day. Plump and preoccupied; focused and fixated on one aspect of their appearance. Of all things. No mention of character or any positive personal qualities, just colour and size. For far too long I am the colour yellow and I have a great big belly! had been playing over and over in their tiny bird brain – really loud.
So much for positive and accurate self-talk. So much for illuminating self-understanding. So much for the future of our feathered friends.
To be sure, this muddled message had shaped their thinking over the years. Some tried to trace it right back to nest. Others blamed it on a few head-first crash landings back in the flight training days. And there was that recent high-speed incident with the window. Either way, this entrenched self-understanding would now – to a large extent – determine their direction and define their destiny. Yes, Name Day turned out to be one sad day in woodpecker world history. As the spotlight shone down, during an awkward moment of silence, things went from bad to worse:
“And what do you like to do in your spare time…Yellow-belly?”
“Soaring high in the sky with the eagles” would have been a good response. If only. “Hanging out with my California Condor friends” could have worked too. “Practicing my Meadowlark imitation” might have been an improvement. “Doing Kingfisher dives” would have caught the attention of the judges. Communicating an association with a few rock stars in the bird community was one obvious option. Standing next to some birdie with perceived stellar status was a standard strategy. The Red-capped Burgereaters did it all the time.
But this too was second-best. It would have been even better, so the YBS historians say, if Mr. or Mrs. or Miss. Yellow-belly would have said something more revealing about themselves. Preferably something about what made them unique – even special – in the larger community of creatures. Something that made them stand out in some way even among other creatures in the sky.
Sucking sap. Was that it? Did that phrase really define their identity? It does now.
And for generations now, young birds in Yellow-belly Sapsucker school have been given the following essay topic: “What our distant relatives should have said.”
Wings are even better, but words can help you fly.
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