Have you ever wanted to give up?
I mean surrender, with white flag waving, after trying your best and getting nowhere? Smashing into that brick wall and discovering it hasn’t shifted a single inch? Plotting and planning a course forward and ending up farther behind?
After 3 months of revising a manuscript, I was certain I’d succeeded this time and submitted it. I opened the email response just as Maggie walked into my office. She read it over my shoulder and said, “Mom, that’s brutal.” I was too devastated to speak.
I rose from my desk and stared out the window. Our yard was covered in snow so deep that our raised garden in the front yard had all but vanished. I felt like it did–frozen. So I distracted myself by calling Candy, a neighbor who keeps an eye on Percy, the lone peacock who wandered into our village 5 years ago.
Our blue mystery.
He settled on a quiet lane bordered by forest and kind folks who provide food and water. But winter is tough for a creature without fur or the instinct to burrow. With 4 feet of tail feathers, curling up is impossible. He sleeps high up in a tree, the safest place from roaming predators. He clings through snowstorms, sleet, and rain, his long neck tucked into his body, making him look like a big blue marble.
Everyone worries that he’ll freeze to death. But he doesn’t. Percy is a survival miracle.
Candy reported his approach to this winter’s unusual, pounding winds. When he flies to his favorite branch, he pivots until he finds the position that makes him aerodynamically sound. The wind travels down, not against, his feathers. “He’s a smart bird,” she said.
She did, however, tell me about the Polar Vortex of 2019 when Percy took a gamble. With a temperature of -13 degrees and -43 degree windchill, he decided against sleeping in the tree. Perching up there in the open, he knew the odds were against him. So he slept on the ground, braced against a familiar house with a floor plan that blocked the north and west wind. “He must have known that the bad guys wouldn’t be out and about in weather like that,” Candy offered. For 3 nights, he took the risky pivot of his life and survived.
For weeks now, I’ve been in a quandary, as my mother would say, about that manuscript until today. I followed our dog Maria to the east side of the house. Tiny snowdrops had emerged from the last traces of snow. Instinctively they held tight in the ground–frozen.
Until they knew when to pivot.
And that was my answer all along.
To borrow from Thomas Edison, my manuscript had not failed. I had found the way it didn’t work. There’s only one thing I can do.