Be Like the Osprey

When all hope is gone, keep picking up sticks.

I have been so busy lately that some days I just forget to eat. I pretty much live on coffee now. Sometimes it feels like all the time and energy I put into my daily projects is completely fruitless. Those are the frustrating days, and it's on those days that I really wonder if all the running around is worth it.

That's when I force myself to pause, step outside with my coffee, walk to the beach near my home, and allow myself just 10, 15, sometimes 20 minutes to wallow in self pity before I take a deep breath and regroup.

One particular day, when I was feeling especially overwhelmed and frustrated, I actually cried and then called out to the empty, blue sky, hoping that whatever invisible, all-knowing force known as God might be listening.

“What is all of this for? When do I get a break?” I cried out.

I wiped away pitiful tears and watched my stoic company, the pelicans and herons, stand in shallow water when an osprey flew overhead and caught my attention. The bird had built a nest in a nearby tree. From the ground, its nest looked like nothing more than a huge pile of sticks lodged between branches. And when I say “huge,” I mean a human child could sleep comfortably inside this thing and still have room for a pillow. The osprey was en route to this nest and clutching a single stick. I watched the bird curiously as it added the stick to the already huge pile and took off again. It returned a several minutes later, carrying another stick.

“Seriously, why?” I actually asked out loud as if the bird would answer. I felt slightly agitated at the simplicity of its actions.

“Don’t you have enough sticks already? Just take a break.”

The osprey didn’t have to reply for me to understand the answer. It hit me like a divine thunderbolt from a clear blue sky.

The osprey was preparing a nest for something to be named later – a family, a thunderstorm, a friend; its task of retrieving suitable sticks is continuous, until its life is finished. The osprey doesn’t need justification from the heavens for completing such a mundane task day in and day out, it just trusts its own instinct to keep building, and that bigger and more important purpose will be unveiled at the right time.

“I get it,” I replied to the force in the sky. “I’ll stop whining.”

And with that, I sighed, stood up, wiped the exhausted tears from my eyes and set forth obediently to pick up my sticks, one at a time.

Mathew J. Eberius February 14, 2011 at 03:43 AM
Beautifully written, Katie.
Rod K February 14, 2011 at 09:30 PM
Stick by stick, reminds me of Anne Lamott's "Bird by Bird".
Katie Dolac February 14, 2011 at 10:42 PM
I had to look up the Anne Lamott reference. Seems like she developed a similar approach. I'm intrigued. Looks like I'll be adding another book to my leisure reading stack.
Chris Sansbury May 08, 2011 at 01:16 PM
Bird by Bird is sooo good. I love that we have the Ospreys here in Dunedin, they are amazing birds. I remember when I was a kid it was such a rare sight to see them because DDT almost completely wiped out all the birds of prey in Florida.


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