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According to tradition, the Bodhisattva once existed as a woodpecker. There is a finite cycle, an ecosystem within the forest that he was located. The thick forest began to stir at the first glimpses of light. The beetles traveled across the soggy floor and the deer stretched their limbs. This morning, like all others, was met with an alarm of productivity. The leaves rustled with movement. The streams trickled with intensity. Then, once all of the animals had taken big breaths, rapid knocking on the surface of trunks commenced. The community of woodpeckers seemed to all rise within a succinct period. They were a determined group.
He noticed dew on the bright red feathers atop his head. He then began the first incision. He tilted his head back and went forward and back, at an accelerated pace. Once he had pecked on the tree for a while, he felt a worm wriggle at the tip of his beak. He pulled it out and began to fill his stomach. He heard other woodpeckers in the distance, beginning their day’s work.
There were a set of unsaid rules, rules of the cycle. He knew to stay high, so as not to tempt the larger mammals beneath. He knew to not peck too loud, for the other animals in the tree would get angry at the ruckus. He knew to work on the trees designated only to himself. Lastly, he knew to not over-harvest the trees, so that there was time for regeneration of his food source.
He looked down and admired his nest, nestled in the side of the tree. Several of his children reached their necks out of the hole in the tree and let out faint chirps.
“Don’t worry, I will bring you food soon!” he shouted.
He was a good father. He always made sure his chicks were fed, and then he would indulge himself. As he did each day, he searched for an assortment of insects, a buffet of sorts. His family was plump with food, and it was known throughout the community. Some days, he heard sparrows and cardinals speak about the status of his family.
“How does he get so much food? It’s not fair,” they would whisper.
He ignored them and continued his search for meals.
He knew he was fortunate because the trees he was designated were always stocked with worms and grubs. The woodpecker knew he must travel from tree to tree, so as to not take too many worms from one. Over the years, he became lazy. He favorited the tree beside the one where his children were held. It was only a few feet away. It had smooth bark and a magnificently intricate base. There were so many holes, he struggled to find untouched areas to tap. He noticed that the worms he found inside were skinny and grey. The bark virtually melted away at the tip of his beak, an obvious loss of structure. The tree was dying. He was annoyed that he would have to use other trees, but that laziness was replaced with greediness.
“I’m sure she won’t notice if I peck at some of her trees,” he whispered to himself.
He glanced over to the neighboring cluster of trees. He noticed that the woodpecker who had claim to that area was away. She was most likely off at the closest waterfall, bathing. He fluttered over to one of her trees. The bark was foreign to him, but he began working. He repeated this process, in fact at night, so that he would remain unsuspected. His children were well-fed by the trees within his designated area, as was the woodpecker himself, but he found an odd satisfaction in stealing.
A time had passed, and once again at daybreak he began his work on his own trees. He heard a flapping of dainty wings and a sudden presence. The neighboring woodpecker had come to him for help.
“Could you help me? I am not sure what to do. My main feeding tree has much less food than usual and my chicks are suffering,” she croaked.
He could see that she was weak, herself. She had been giving any food she could find to her children. He thought about the surplus of worms and beetles that was stored inside of his nest. He felt immense guilt, but he could not bear to tell her the truth. He did not know he was taking this much of her food. As his mind was spinning, an uproar of chirps came from her section of trees. She darted to her nest, taking short, exhausted flaps. She cried out. He knew, in that moment, she had lost a chick. An overwhelming sense of guilt flooded his body and made him shutter.
Over time, his chicks grew and flew away to find their own patch of trees. Since that day of sadness, he brought food to the opening of her nest each and every day. He gave her the best worms and grubs he could find. He vowed to always supply her with food.