Sandhill crane, Citrus County, Florida
Patience is a necessary quality for any person unfortunate enough to be among the ranks of the unemployed. If you don't already have patience, you will learn it during this process. I was not prepared for this seemingly endless period of hurry up and wait nor for the highs of the maybes and lows of disappointment. Learning to wait is one of the most important lessons I am working on.
Just last week I spent a few days in Florida. In addition to family, it is home to the sandhill cranes in winter (many migrate north to Canada for the summer season).
I was pretty low about the job situation when I arrived, and so ready for an adventure. My brother arranged for me to visit a friend’s property where most mornings some 100 sandhill cranes visit.
I spent two very long, chilly mornings watching and waiting for their anticipated arrival; I waited, quietly, for more than 4 hours. They never came, but something perhaps more important happened.
I was calm. I did not get mad when they failed to arrive. I enjoyed the anticipation and the time outdoors; I found other things to appreciate and enjoy during the wait.
This experience was much like the past 14 months, except that I was even better prepared. I had the right clothes and the necessary supplies (two camera lenses, extra batteries, lens cleaner and a large cup of coffee). Perhaps most importantly, I was fully aware that the wait was likely to be long, and could be fruitless.
Great white heron, Citrus County, Florida
Great blue heron, Citrus County, Florida
Tom and part of his harem, Citrus County, Florida
Lone sandhill crane in morning fog, Citrus County, Florida
On the first day, my brother went with me and we spent the first hour together, without interruption. It was absolutely worth it for that part alone. But I was doubly rewarded. Like the past months when I have spent unexpected time with nature, I was given an extraordinary gift. Through the fog we observed deer, two flocks of wild turkeys, a great blue heron and a great white heron. I had never seen a Tom Turkey leading his flock. It was fascinating and gave me a better understanding of the term “turkey trot”. Those girls can really move when Tom gives the word! Rather than 100 sandhill cranes, I saw one lone sandhill walking around the owner's yard.
Hungry gator, Citrus County, FloridaOn the second day, the fog lifted and I saw the sun rise higher and observed more turkeys and deer, a little blue heron and my old friends the great white and the great blue. A pileated woodpecker flew by and a dozen enormous turkey vultures perched in a nearby tree and flew so close that their wings sounded like beach umbrellas on a windy day. I heard the wild turkeys continuing their loud chatter long after they trotted into the woods. Then I saw a second great blue heron fly low over the other, calling out to him. He reacted quickly and flew off in pursuit, making a great deal of noise. Moments later I realized what the commotion was about when, in the same spot where the great blue had been only moments before, a 5-foot alligator, looking greatly disappointed, crawled out of the water to lie in the sun in lieu of his anticipated feast.
While a little disappointed that I didn’t see the flock of sandhills I had heard so much about, I left that second day feeling refreshed and reinvigorated. I had in fact spent a fair amount of time talking to God about my situation, asking for guidance, and meditating. It was time well spent.
Interestingly, I later found out that our information about where exactly to go to see the sandhills was not quite right. Also like job hunting, it seems that if you aren’t clear in your directions or are not focused correctly, you can be very very close to your goal yet miss it completely. The cranes were on a nearby piece of land and I was just not quite close enough.
On another day, I spotted a sandhill crane along a rural road and my friend and I pulled off to see it. He moved quickly away from us and into the shallow marsh. In the middle of the marsh sat another crane and he headed toward her. She rose and exposed a tiny fuzzy crane chick, probably only a few days old. The baby walked to the edge of the nest to greet his father, then walked between his doting parents, seemingly enjoying the freedom of a few feet of playspace. The parents paid much attention to him, gently nudging him back when he got too far from the center of the nest. It was a sweet scene. I couldn’t have asked for anything better than that.
Job hunting, like life, can involve a lot of spinning wheels, looking in all the wrong places and waiting endlessly. Then when you least expect it, something good happens that might not be what you had envisioned at all.
Lessons learned: Be mindful of where you look and don’t give up. It’s worth the wait but it might take longer than you planned. You never know what is around the next bend; it could be an ugly old wood stork!