Old Teen Essays
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Article ID: 4563
Age Group: Adult
Posted: June 3rd. 2002
The Picture of Patience
It's late Spring at the Little Pond. The broods of February baby squirrels have all grown up- and although they still hang out together quite a bit- the competitive urge typical of animalistic maturity is beginning to set in. Squabbles- complete with teeth clicking chatter and punctuated by some considerably impressive tail flicking- now break out almost every day. Soon they will be arguing over which tree belongs to whom and other such issues that are apparently so very important to the squirrelly social set. Such as peanuts. They figured out long ago just where peanuts come from and as a result, I have been forced to reject outright all fashion trends that feature a sleek or 'hip skimming' design. Peanut Ladies need lots of roomy pockets. So kiss those tight jeans goodbye. I have my responsibilities and so I do try to carry off the required fashion faux pas with grace. At least now, I also have some help.
The giggles heard echoing from the staircase that leads down to the Little Pond signal that this help is now on the way. At four-years-old, he is still a bit haphazard in the sprinkling of the birdseed, but he does show considerable promise. Whatever finesse he may lack in the motor skills department however, Chatter Boy more than makes up for by his sheer enthusiasm for the task. Faithfully every day, he and his father are out there feeding the critters. And so it is that on this particular morning, as I sip my coffee on the balcony, I watch Chatter Boy race across the still dewy grass to the bare bones of the willow tree. Drought and old age finally took Willow down during the past winter, but she is still the designated feeding area until the inevitable chain saw comes to lay her finally to rest. It's sad, but it's Nature's way.
I can't see the father from my current lazy-butt vantage point, but I hear his voice directing the boy about something. Curious, I get up from my deck chair and peer over the railing. And there below me, I spy Photo Dad setting up his video camera. I call him 'Photo Dad' because the guy must have a hundred cameras. Today, he has three of them out there: a video camera (which he is busy setting up on a tripod), a handheld digital camera and a very small square pocket style one. Chatter Boy skips over to where Photo Dad is still peering through the video camera's viewfinder and scoops up the little square one. Chatter Boy got his name for the obvious reason. He is at that age where he keeps up a constant stream of conversation. If there is no one else around, he simply talks to himself. (Probably at that dreaded "WHY?" stage, too, come to think of it.) The little square camera must be the Boy's parentally authorized own to use as Photo Dad doesn't instantly lunge for it. (If you are a parent- or had younger siblings- you know that instinctive 'snatch it outta their sticky thieving little fingers' panic move, I'm sure.) Apparently this is going to be a 'photo opportunity' morning. I decide to stay put and watch. Good thing that I did or I wouldn't have a storyline for this week. Here's how it went.
Taking Chatter Boy by the hand, Dad leads him to a spot near Faded Willow. "Now stand here," he says softly, "and be quiet. When the birds come, you can take a picture." "Okay, Daddy," says Chatter Boy. Dad walks back to his video camera and stoops down to look into the viewfinder.
Two seconds later, the Boy is walking back.
"The birds won't come, Daddy," he pouts. Photo Dad looks up from the camera. "You have to wait and not move and then the birds will come," he explains. Dad walks Boy back to tree. "Now stay right here, don't talk and don't move and the birds will come." Probably figuring that he had covered all of the bases this time, Dad walks backs to camera. Looks in viewfinder.
And sees Boy running back in his direction.
"The birds won't come. Daddy. I waited and the birds didn't come." Dad straightens up. (Again.) He takes the Boy's hand and walks him back over by the bushes. (Again.) "The birds will come. You have to stand here, be quiet, not move,"- and then obviously reaching for a more magical element this time- "you have to think good thoughts about the birds. They will come." Dad walks back to his camera. A few moments of silence. Then from the bushes, the Dad and I hear, "Come on, birdies. Come get your picture taken. Say cheese..." "Shhhhh..." advises Dad, "You have to be quiet." Looks back into lens.
Looks down at Boy who suddenly materializes at his side.
I look up at the eaves where dozens of pigeons and blue jays and grackles are waiting for things to calm down so that they can simply get a bite to eat. I swear that I saw one of the pigeons actually tapping his foot... but maybe he just had a sudden twitch or something. I hear Photo Dad quietly say, "Now look, Boy. The birds will come. They want to come. But you have to stand still and you have to wait. That is what you have to do if you want to get a good picture." Back over to the bushes, they go. Back to the camera, Photo Dad goes.
Two seconds pass. (A new record.) And then another two. And another. From the bushes, a sing-song little voice asks, "Are they coming, yet, Daddy?" at the very same instant when all of the birds who were just heading down toward the tree... take an abrupt U-turn and flutter back up to the safety of the eaves. They look at me. I just shrug apologetically. The kid's gotta lot to learn.
"Shhhh..." Dad shushes. "They will come..."
Now from my vantage point, the birds don't look all that sure that they even want breakfast anymore. But after another minute or so, they decide to give it another go. They get to the Faded Willow. They take a couple of pecks. They get their picture taken.
They streak back to the eaves as Chatter Boy runs past the tree shouting, "I got the picture, Daddy! I got the picture!"
Photo Dad smiles and ruffles the hair on the top of Chatter Boy's head. "You did? Good for you! Did they say cheese?" "Uh-huh" nods the Boy, "Can we go take a picture of the fishies now, Daddy..."
As Photo Dad and Chatter Boy walk hand in hand down to the edge of the Little Pond, the birds finally get their breakfast. The 'fishies', on the other hand.... well, by now you know how the storyline goes and can probably write the rest of the tale yourself. Leaning back in my chair, a sense of sweet well-being comes over me. Another lesson learned.
Patience, (the ability to steadfastly endure misfortune, pain, or hardship; the willingness or ability to wait calmly when faced with delay; steady perseverance; persistence) is a learned behavior. A four-year-old Chatter Boy doesn't have much of it as yet. Photo Dad, on the other hand seems to possess it in abundance. (May the Gods bless him!) That Chatter Boy will learn to have patience, I have no doubt. Dad is teaching him how important it is to have patience if one wants to get a good picture. But more than that, Dad is teaching Boy that to enjoy the things around you, one must have the patience to wait and be still and to let these things come to you, as they will. Some things in Life are rather skittish. One must remain quiet and still and patient for a bit before they will approach you. In our spiritual lives, it is the same. Sometimes we have to wait. Sometimes we have to just shut up and start to listen. And sometimes, we are lucky enough to find a teacher or a mentor who teaches us how to be patient by being patient with us as we learn.
Such teachers or mentors know that developing patience is important. So they won't bite your head off because you naively ask the same question that hundreds of people have already asked them before. They won't roll their eyes (Well, not so you can see them.) when you come running back to them time and again for advice (The same advice that you previously ignored, no doubt.). They don't 'teach' the virtue of patience by being impatient themselves. What they understand in the way of spiritual knowledge is important stuff. And because it is such important stuff, they will take the time and make the effort (again and again and again if necessary) to make sure that you get it right. By their acts of patience, they teach patience. And they teach patience because not only do they care about that important stuff; they care about you. That a Dad would love and care about the development of his Boy is quite understandable. A good teacher or mentor will care for and train and nurture a dedicate, an initiate or a seeker in the same manner. And it is a lesson that will last long after the training period is over. It is a gift that will endure for the rest of your life. It is a gift that you can then pass on to your own spiritual 'children'.
The squirrels have stopped their squabbling for the time being and the birds are gone from the eaves. Somewhere Photo Dad and Chatter Boy are probably telling the tale of the great photo opportunity to Mom and looking at the pictures together. There will be some pictures of birds and of fishies in the mix and, no doubt, lots of pictures of blurry grass and boy-sized sneakers as well. An actual Picture of Patience won't develop anywhere on the film, of course, but I know that it is there.
As seen through the lens of the spirit, it is most definitely there.
Co-Founder - The Witches' Voice
Monday, June 3rd., 2002
Photo Credit: Photo of Daniella Waterhawk (right WebSite) and Dana Davis (left WebSite) taken by Fritz Jung.
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