As I sat in my basement office one day struggling to string words together for the church presentation I needed to make in only a few days’ time, I became distracted by a vole.
Do you know voles? I tend to think of them as the ugly cousin of the field mouse. Or, more positively, the better looking cousin of the mole. I found a picture of one to post here for you, but to be honest, the ones we’d see in our back yard weren’t as cute as this one.
Anyway, the vole had fallen down into the window well of our basement office window.
The window next to the desk holding the computer where I sat trying to create my presentation, thank you very much.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw it fall into the window well. I got up to glance at it and see if it was OK (to be honest, this was not an unusual occurrence). I saw that the vole was fine, and I made a mental note to go outside and rescue it once my presentation was more complete. But, to my surprise, the vole began clawing his way up the window screen trying to get to safety.
It was creepy and distracting all at the same time.
Well, I thought as I tried to ignore him, because, after all –PRESENTATION!– maybe I won’t even have to save him. But no. He got to the top of the screen and could not scale the expanse between himself and the grass where he needed to be.
So, fall again, he did.
(Total sidebar here, but I can’t help but think of Yoda with the way I just strung those words together…can you?)
Anyhoo, my point is, this climbing and falling went on not two or three more times, but probably half a dozen or more. And the whole time I sat there, further distracted, each time hoping he would save himself, so that I could continue with my creative process. Finally, defeated, the vole stopped trying.
And I thought, Great! Now I will finally be able to GET SOMETHING DONE in the peace and quiet.
But, I couldn’t. stop. thinking. about. that. stinkin’. vole.
So, in a huff and with a sense of complete disgust, I went upstairs, grabbed a bug net, and went out to the window well and rescued the vole. I released it out into a part of the yard where I thought he would be much more happy–near the wood pile. (And since he didn’t reappear in the window well, minutes later, I can only assume he was happier there.)
By the time I got all done with that whole exercise, what little sliver of a creative process that I’d had up to that point, was now completely lost.
I sat there staring at the blinking cursor on my computer screen and had nothing to say.
As the cursor blinked away at me, my thoughts became jumbled with the laundry list of things I needed to get done in addition to my presentation. And I began sweating at the thought of it all. Come on! Come on! THINK! I’d shout internally. Give me the words, God! I’d scream inside.
But my thoughts would always go back to the vole.
WHY CAN’T I STOP THINKING ABOUT THAT VOLE?!?!!?
And then, though I’d barely realized that I’d asked a question, an answer formed in my heart with these words, It wasn’t until he stopped trying to save himself, that you rescued him.
Maybe the reason I couldn’t stop thinking about that vole, was because that experience was a lesson meant for me about trying to force the creative process, especially when I’m trying to force it for God.
I realized then and there that I can think (part of the creative process) about what I want to say while I’m doing just about anything else. And I can write down notes (also part of the creative process) as the thoughts come to me. And I can sit down and write more when the time is less forced (creative process again!).
And you know what?
It all worked out.
My presentation got done with time to spare. The house and kids didn’t suffer (too much, anyway) as a result of my neglecting ALL OTHER THINGS for the sake of the presentation.
I can’t tell you how often, still, I think of that vole. But, I definitely think of it anytime I feel that creative process being forced in me (which is often). And it’s that vole that make me think of ways I might be able to surrender myself a little more to the circumstances of my life and trust that all will still be well in the end.
Yep. That vole sure knew a thing or two.
Because, three years later, it hasn’t failed me yet.