Vigil


This is Isabel outside my office window, watching the Bewick’s wren nest.

I originally thought it was a house wren, but the song and behavior has me now convinced that it’s a Bewick’s wren. Apparently they’re easily confused. And, sadly, the house wrens are driving out the Bewick’s wrens, so much so that they’re pretty much gone from the eastern half of the country.

The males go around building several nests in cavities, like inside the cow skull on our front porch, and the female chooses her favorite. Our male worked away to build the nest and sings his heart out. But I’m not convinced he has found a mate, much less that there’s anything going on in that nest.

Isabel, however, is certain there is.

She spends her days watching that nest. With unwavering intensity. She never tires of it. It’s the same method she employs to catch mice or lizards. They hide and she sits and waits. For hours. Until they finally come out and she catches them.

Part of the reason felines sleep so much is because they’re such efficient hunters that they can. Among all predators, cats spend the least amount of time actively hunting. Part of this though, is that persistence. They never forget or lose interest. Isabel’s been watching that nest for two weeks now without much reward. If there ever are chicks, I’ll have to keep her inside, because she won’t rest until she gets them.

Writers talk about persistence all the time. Persistence to finish the book in the first place, to see it through the tough spots, in the face of ongoing rejection, to write the next book even as everyone apparently hates the one you’re trying to shop. People throw around phrases like “thick skin” and “hanging on to your dream” and “never give up,” which all sounds so grueling.

I wonder if it shouldn’t be more like a cat hunting. Work on it every day, never lose interest, always check the nest. For Isabel, watching the nest is just as fun as finding something in it.

For her, it’s not grueling. It’s just what she does.

7 Replies to “Vigil”

  1. Hi Jeffe–

    Love the blog and especially love this post. I used to have a koi fish pond –and cats. The man who cleaned the pond was the ultimate person of few words. But one day he questioned whether this was a good combination. He said, "Cats are —uhhh–patient." I will add that word to your wonderful advice for writers. We'll check our nests 'cause that's what we do, and maybe be patient. : )

  2. That word is a great addition, Tara. Patience, indeed. It's even a virtue! (though not really one of mine…)

  3. Oh, no worries, he's fast and tough. He bounces around and scolds her. (I did move the table out from directly *under* the skull though)

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