It rained for three days and three nights. Epic rains. Biblical. If I wasn’t a teetotaler, I would have downed tumblers of gin. But at least I was indoors where it was dry. Zelda had to incubate those four eggs.
My husband set up a spotting scope for me to watch the nest. I’d look out the window and there was Zelda, sitting tail up, head up, body spread to cover the clutch. Rain dripped off her beak. Her feathers contain oil to reduce some wetness but nothing like what fell from the sky. It remains to be seen if her nest will be a success.
During the last week and a half, Zelda has sat, leaving her post only for a minute or two to eat. And I have sat, too, at my desk, working. Sometimes I thought about running away to someplace sunny. Instead I visited blogs.
I found a blog post called “The Crossroad of Should and Must,” a discussion of why we should ditch Should and go for Must. Should is our regular life. “How others want us to show up in the world . . . When we choose Should the journey is smooth, the risk small.”
Must, on the other hand, isn’t an option. “Must is who we are, what we believe, and what we do when we are alone with our truest, most authentic self.” Hmmm. I always thought that Must was Should—as in, “Today I must go to the grocery store or we will starve.”
Must is about calling, the thing we should be doing, but not should be doing. The author of this post worked at Mailbox. She left a great job to become an artist. She didn’t know her calling but it began with a dream about a white room. Where was this room? She looked on Craigslist. And there it was! When she moved into the white room, a voice said she should paint.
From there she took an Airbnb in Bali to be alone for six weeks. I had to look up AirbnB (also Mailbox, plus I had no idea you could find places in your dreams on Craigslist). In the Bali hut she made paintings of the moon. Back in California, she tried to figure out how to turn moon paintings into fabric designs, so she took an Airbnb in New York City. She sold her fabric and launched a new, even better, career. She talked a lot about results and Picasso.
In a nutshell: Life is short, go after your dreams. These days when I am alone with my truest, most authentic self, I want to sleep. Or eat chocolate.
Next I jumped to a blog about one of my favorite photographers, Theron Humphrey, and his project called This Wild Idea. I love this project. When Humphrey’s grandfather died, and he realized there would be no more stories, no more photographs of him, Humphrey quit his soul-draining product photography job. Then he set off to find one new person to meet and photograph. From August 1, 2011 to August 1, 2012, he traveled all 50 states in a truck with a coonhound named Maddie. He posted the photos and stories online for 365 days.
I drool over this idea. But it isn’t going to happen. Wanting to take to the road and photograph people, with or without a dog (Winchester would be out of the question), is not a Must calling to me. Neither was living in a hut in Bali to think for six weeks. There are too many Shoulds in my life.
It has occurred to me that the Internet, like advertising, creates dissatisfaction. Fantasy writer Terri Windling says on her blog that “reading on the Internet, with its mass choir of voices and its speedy, amped-up rhythms, spins me away from my inner Lake of Words and off into other directions.” Yes, me too.
(Yet the Internet works for a lot of people. Airbnb. Crowdfunding got Theron Humphrey his nest egg for his venture. Instagram made his dog famous and nabbed him a book deal. And This Wild Idea earned him National Geographic Travel award for the Year. The woman in the white room is also successful.)
I clicked off the web with a sigh. There comes a time when you can’t ignore the Shoulds. You own a house. You have family obligations. You have health issues or your loved ones have them. It would be lovely to go traipsing off, but you can’t.
Every evening, I’d look through the spotting scope at the nest. I could see the silhouette of Zelda’s head against the shed wall. Does she hear Must telling her to fly to Bali? Or be a cowbird and lay her eggs in other birds’ nests so she can be free?
Zelda sits steadfast. Patient. Waiting. Her Should is not a smooth journey and the risks are great. She has the highest possible need for results—hatching her eggs.
As for me, I need to turn off the “mass choir of voices” and get back to work. I’m lucky enough to realize Must called to me when I was fifteen (though it was my English teacher who told me I should be a writer of children’s books). I’ve been trying to answer that call ever since, even when more Shoulds crowd into my life each year.