The Great Blue Heron is a regular visitor to the marsh that is steps away from my home. Occasionally I see him flying overhead. Sometimes he’s ducking the harassing red-winged blackbirds, if he has strayed too near their nests. Mostly he sits perfectly still, watching and waiting. Eventually he’s rewarded, when the right-sized fish swims within stabbing distance and ends up in his gullet. Even when he’s just hanging around, preening or resting, he can stand for long periods without moving.
The heron is patient, focused and persistent. He is also well fed and healthy. So is the osprey who fishes the marsh. He glides over the water, watching for movement. He rarely misses when he dives for a fish, but the dives are a small break in his total flying time. With a mate and two offspring to feed, he keeps at it.
I’ve spent my whole life trying to learn what these two birds practice instinctively: patience, focus and persistence. I often come up short on both counts, and I can be pretty hard on myself because of it. My options are less defined. I can easily start off working on something, get distracted, and lose myself in an entirely different task before veering back to the original activity.
Taking up photography is giving me more practice in patience, focus and persistence. I don’t have a natural talent for it, but I do have a growing passion. So I look at the work of skilled photographers, read about techniques, and ponder what it is that makes me shiver with delight when I look at some photographs.
The surprise payoff is not just my pleasure in occasionally feeling that shiver when I look at one of my own photographs. Beyond that, I’m seeing my surroundings in new ways, with more depth and interest. It’s also that it is affecting my writing. I’m bringing more attention and openness to it. I already wake up every day eager to hit the keyboard and see what pours out, but I’m settling to the work with new enthusiasm.
And that gives me hope that with patience, focus and persistence I'll be able to write down all the stories and ideas that keep spinning in my head.