I said goodbye to the great blue herons today. Chicks perch on the edge of the high nests lodged on dead tree trunks high above the swamp. A few weeks ago I watched anxious parents hover over their eggs and tend their brood, not daring to fly away until their mate arrived. Today the babies stand on the edges of the nests crowded with two or three siblings. Five fluffy headed chicks bobbed up and down in one. When a parent arrived, its babes chattered wildly for food – and perhaps for freedom. Their nests grow more and more crowded as they grow to nearly adult size. But not one can fly. Not yet. They stand up, flap their wings to strengthen their muscles, stumble about awkwardly on the stick-nests and look down thirty five or forty feet to the wet swamp below. Their parents venture out to forage for fish or frogs from the creek to feed them.
A beautiful adolescent heron who had lost most of his downy feathers stood on tall thin legs at the edge looking out, looking down. He flapped his wings, lifted up on one leg and, oh, oh, oh so close, he nearly lifted off. But one leg continued to grasp tight to the twigs. Oh, the yearning to take flight! I could taste, smell, see and feel his yearning to step off the branch and drift into the breeze, but something – was it instinct or fear or lack of gentle parental guidance – kept him there holding on. He dared not try to fly, not yet. But the longing remained there in his demeanor, pencil-thin legs and neck extended, peering over the edge, trying to imagine the joy of flight, envying the small sparrows and other birds zipping past.
Writing into the unknown, is like learning to fly. There is an inner instinct that guides us about what is possible and what is dangerous. We know when to go and when to hold back. But do we listen? The great blue heron knows all these things inherently about flying. Flying is its nature. It feels naturally at ease in the breeze. So it is with us. We know when to fly and when to stay. When to write and send it out – and when to wait.
We pick up a pen, stand on the edge of our despair or joy or suffering, and fear what it means to put it on paper, fear that facing it will make us weak or weep or fly into the unknown. But the sky is waiting to embrace our efforts and courage. Our inner guiding instinct, like a wise parent leads us gently along the way.
With pen in hand, lean into the air, chest forward like the great blue heron. Trust that you’re strong enough to take flight. Trust the divine hand that operates from the inside out and eases you to let go of the safety of the limb and venture into new territory, soar to new heights. Trust that your wings will carry you to the stars and guide you out of the darkness and into the light.
I say goodbye and take flight before the adolescent herons do but hope to rendez vous with them when they return home, on strong wings, to love and nest here in Charlotte in the spring again.
Copyright: Debra Moffitt, 2008 www.debramoffitt.com