Notes from Candice Ransom

Robin Journal: April 24-May 1, 2014

Photo by Donna Hopkins who has a way better camera than I do, and in general takes better pictures.
Photo by Donna Hopkins who has a way better camera than I do, and in general takes better pictures.

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.

From This Wild Idea website
From This Wild Idea website

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.

12 thoughts on “Robin Journal: April 24-May 1, 2014”

  1. Yes yes yes! Thanks so much for this. I’ve always admired you for the courage of your convictions, and have no doubt you’ll hold steady despite life’s shoulds and that mass choir of voices that taunts us all.

    We’re all pulling for Zelda and her eggs. We have a nester on our front porch too (not sure what kind of bird). Last year a couple of the nestlings fell out, so this year we’re really keeping our fingers crossed.

    • When I think of how productive I was 20 years ago, I realize it was the Internet that wasn’t around. It makes a huge difference in how I spend my time. For all of us. I’m still on the web a ton, but I’m better at sorting out the “fluff” and zeroing in on the sites that help me.

      If baby birds fall out of the nest, you can put them back in. Birds can’t smell our scent. But most of the time, the parents take care of the babies until they can fly off.
      Describe that bird to me–small, brown? It may be a song sparrow. Jerky tail and snapping eyes? May be a wren.

      • By the time we found the nestlings, they were dead. 🙁

        The bird is medium sized and gray. Not a wren. Aren’t sparrows usually brown?

        • Since you live in the woods, they may have been phoebes. A very distinct call–feee-bee! They like to nest under eaves of old dwelling (not that your house is old!). Poor little things. Nothing sadder than a failed nest.

  2. Brave Zelda! Are you familiar with the saying “Comparison is the thief of joy”? Still, I’d love to see that “moon fabric” – do you have the link? 🙂 e

  3. I spent the whole of my childhood complying with the wishes of others, responding with forced urgency to the outwardly imposed Shoulds and Mosts. Truth be told, I have to clap my hands over my ears sometimes, just to drown out their whisperings. And I have to remind myself that my legs and arms are my own, long-since liberated from their their restraints.

    That said, I’ve always been a bit of a quiet rebel. Which is why your post reminded me of myself. Too, it made me think of this lovely snippet by Shel Silverstein:

    “Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”

    Here’s to the child in all of us, and to my personal motto: More Wheeeee, less Whoa. xoxoxxo

    • Oh, you were one of those good girls. I wasn’t, mainly because nobody paid that much attention to me. I wasn’t *bad,* just not good. If someone said, Don’t do that, I’d run and do it. It wasn’t until I grew up that I realized I’d have to comply to get along in this world. But that didn’t stop me from going barefoot in the office where I worked and hanging a poster of Middle Earth above my desk.

      You have broken away from the shoulds . . . and now you are about to start a new life in a gorgeous house. Fill it with what you love. Plant petunias in a whitewashed tire in the front yard! Be bad!

  4. Zelda also reminds us to live in the moment. I was recently reminded by the passing of my younger sister-in-law that time is indeed very precious. So often I’m waiting for things to happen, wishing for things to happen instead of going about my day with a glad heart for what is. Zelda does her work. Is present in the moment. Enjoying those lovely yellow tulips probably too!

    • I hear you, Connie. I’m forever waiting for “normal” or for when this straightens out and it quits raining or warms up or my foot heals or I have more money . . . there is not normal and that “perfect” day never comes. You’re right–we have to take the days we are handed. We don’t know how many we’re going to get.

      Those yellow tulips are fake! The window box is on a shed and nothing I’d ever fool with. I think Zelda was attracted to them. No regular old tree for her . . . she has flowers!

  5. It was my pleasure to use the long telephoto lens to snap a photo of Zelda. She deserves to be well-known for doing what she must. I saw, first-hand, her perseverance as she sat in the torrents of rain, protecting her eggs.

    Yes, I often myself caught in the web of Shoulds. I have difficulty sorting it all out, but as Elizabeth pointed out, I refuse to let comparison steal my joy. Toward that end, I just de-activated my facebook page.

    • Sometimes we have to do our Shoulds. We made grown-up choices–marrying, having families–and those pretty much preclude going to Bali to think. But I agree–shove the Shoulds aside whenever we can.

      I would love to get rid of my FB page, and I’m on it very seldom, but I am expected to have one. It’s a Should, I’m afraid.


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