At a cabin on a lake in the mountains, where I’m supposed to be working hard on a book, I spend a lot of time watching other things doing what they’re supposed to be doing.
The leaves, for example. They are busy dying. I smiled writing that, thinking aren’t we all?
The dogwood tree by the dock next door turns a little redder by the hour. In the rain last week, its leaves looked as if they were dripping red paint in the lake.
Other colors, too — orange and gold, yellow and brown — are beginning to show in the woods along the shore, as Mother Nature does a striptease, easing out of her green summer dress to reveal a red silk slip before baring her limbs for the long winter sleep.
I wish you could see it.
Then there’s the wolf spider that lives on the porch. She has a body as big as a golf ball, and eight hairy legs that look more like talons. She built a web that stretches from the roof line to the railing, and every day she sits smack in the middle of it, biding her time, waiting for something to kill.
Her cousin apparently built one, too, in the carport. I made the mistake of walking into it one night and had to kickbox my way out. Then I spent the next two days checking my hair.
This morning I watched a flock of geese fly south in a V across the lake. Minutes later, two of them flew back, honking like car alarms. Were they were lost or maybe just forgot something and had to go back to get it?
From my desk, where I’m supposed to be writing, I can look out the window down into the lake and watch the fish swim up, looking back at me.
Sometimes I feed them bread that got stale because, duh, I forgot to put it away. The fish don’t care if it’s stale. They sneak up on a hunk and snag it fast, the way they used to steal bait off my daddy’s hook. He loved to fish. I don’t. I’m happy just to watch them bite.
The squirrels, I swear, act half-crazed, running around gathering acorns like there is a gigantic going-out-of-business acorn sale going on, and then squirreling them away in some secret stash as if they know something that I don’t know.
Maybe they do.
Then there’s my favorite creature to watch, one that makes me feel lucky to be alive: Now and then, when I least expect it, a Great Blue Heron comes gliding into the cove on wings that are wider than I am tall, to fish in the shallows along the bank and dazzle me with its beauty and grace, and remind me of days long ago when my legs were almost that thin.
It strikes me as ironic that of all God’s creations, humans — who are said to be made in his image — are the only ones that ever seem to question or doubt or have any problem figuring out what we’re supposed to do.
Even the lake seems to know its purpose. It’s a fine place to fish and swim and boat and ski and even write, supposedly.
But in all my years of watching it, I’ve come to suspect that its real reason for being is simply this: to mirror the face of God. By day, it catches and reflects the sun. And by night, it becomes a dance floor where the moon and stars come down to waltz.
It shines. So should we.
Lakes shine. Leaves turn. Geese fly. Fish bite. Squirrels hoard. Herons dazzle. Spiders spin their webs and wait.
Me? I watch.
And sometimes I write.
I watch in the hope that someday I’ll learn how to think less and trust more and just do what I’m supposed to do.
And I write for the reasons writers have always written: to know and be known and try to reflect the light I’ve been given.
I’m thankful for the chance, the opportunity to try. But I don’t mind telling you: Some days, I’d rather be a heron.