On my morning walks before sitting down to write every day, I follow a drainage ditch on the side of the road for a half-mile until the sidewalk veers east toward home.
A shallow stream flows through the ditch. It carries enough water to provide a home of sorts for minnows, lizards, tiny tree-frogs, dragon flies ... and even an occasional alligator.
Wading in the bottom of the ditch, searching for food, are usually a handful of birds: snowy egrets, white ibises, little blue herons, woodstorks.
Once in a while I'll spot a pair of sandhill cranes. Even a roseate spoonbill.
But it's the great blue heron--standing motionless, ever watchful--that inspires me as it waits so patiently for something to appear beneath the surface of the water.
And it strikes me--like a flash of fins rippling beneath the water-- that a writer searches for words in the same way a heron searches for food.
Waiting for words to come.
A solitary creature, fishing, just like the heron.
Why do I find this image so comforting?
Maybe because the heron reminds me that writing, too, is part of the natural world, not something separate and apart simply because it's done alone.
Or maybe because just as the heron searches for food to survive, the writer searches for words and stories.
And, like food, words and stories are essential for survival.
The next time you hold your pen over a blank sheet of paper, wading for words, think of the heron... standing in the water, ever so still... until its beak breaks the water like a thin streak of lightening.
As the heron finds food, you'll find your words, your stories.