05/16/2012 05:57 pm ET Updated Jul 16, 2012

Listening to the Heron

The heron, I suspected, had something to say, not that I expected it to break out into speech or even birdsong. Yet as this great, gray-feathered creature folded its long legs, flapped its expansive wings and settled on my garage roof, I regarded it as a sign of some sort, a symbol on the wing.

Signs and symbols immerse our daily lives, from the red octagons that tell us to stop, to the logos that influence our decisions of what to buy. Others carry personal meaning; our own version of whatever we deem to be a lucky penny, literal or figurative. We have favorite numbers and fortuitous days; we make wishes on stars and marvel at full moons that pull us as strongly as the tides.

By themselves, of course, these objects have no power. The meaning they carry is what we deem it to be, whether based on personal interpretation or collective consciousness. Although we impose the significance subjectively, that does not make these signs and symbols any less important. For those of us in need of a hint or a hope, signs and symbols are all around us -- for the asking.

What carries meaning or significance for you? When is an object, event or occurrence more than what it appears on the surface? Where do you find the extraordinary among the ordinary? When and where does the barrier between heaven and earth become porous enough to let grace (blessing, good fortune, luck) to flow more freely? Being aware of what is meaningful to you opens the door to experiencing it more often.

Two summers ago, the heron was a regular resident of a large pond at a park a few blocks from my house. Last summer, though, I rarely saw the bird, which tends to shy away from people in a busy park full of dog walkers, bicycle riders and Little League players. Even when taking a walk in the early morning or later in the evening, I did not see the heron more than once or twice.

Last year's absence made the heron's sudden appearance at my house the other day all the more auspicious. This unexpected visitor raised my sights (literally) out of my daily world and created a pause to reflect among all the to-do's and responsibilities.

Birds, in general, bridge heaven and earth, defying the laws of gravity that govern our grounded natures. With flutter and flap, they take to the air with enviable ease, capturing our imaginations and inspiring aeronautical flights of fancy. But this was no sparrow at the feeder. As ungainly as a prehistoric creature, the heron commanded attention by it's sheer size, particularly when perched at the pinnacle of the garage roof.

The heron speaks to me of glacial, persistent patience as it stands statue-still in water nearly up to its backward-bending knees, waiting for prey to come within the radius of its reach. The heron does not swoop and dive for its next meal; rather, it stands where opportunity is likely to be good and snatches what comes by.

Patient, opportunistic, and adaptable... fine traits for a bird, or a writer, for that matter. As I ponder the symbolic meaning of the heron's roost on my roof, I am inspired to apply those qualities to myself. In my line of work as a writer, being patient, opportunistic and adaptable are huge pluses. If I am looking to "catch" my heart's desire, the message of the heron's patience applies directly to me.

What matters most is not the sign or symbol, itself, but where it takes us. The answers we search for are not really "out there" among the lucky pennies and full moons. We find them "in here," with symbolic messages that resonate with our hopes, dreams, needs, and deepest desires.