I experienced that lesson when I was 22, driving from Fort Worth to Austin on a glorious Texas day. I was wishing I didn’t have to drive, so I could just enjoy the brilliant blue sky and soaring white clouds.
The car broke down in Waco, halfway there.
A kind older couple stopped to help. They arranged for my car to be towed to a mechanic and dropped me at the bus station. They even lent me a suitcase to hold the loose objects I was delivering to my sister.
Traveling by bus, I could look at the sky and clouds without bothering to drive.
I got the message. When you ask for something, be specific.
I was reminded of this message many years and several cars later, again driving to Austin. My sporty Isuzu Impulse had been acting up, but never when I took it to the mechanic. On this trip down I-35, it died two or three times.
I prayed, “Please, God, just let me get to Austin.”
God answered my prayer. As I passed the Austin city limits sign, the car died again. I amended my request: “God, what I really meant was, please let me get to Coral and Terry’s house.” Again, thankfully, he answered my prayer.
Since then, I’ve tried to clarify what I ask for. I’ve tried to think, say and write precisely what I mean. But sometimes I forget. Like yesterday, when I set out to photograph a white heron (egret? crane?) I’d seen on a neighbor’s dock while taking my morning walks.
It had been there every day, striking a perfect pose against the rusty-brown rails, the angles of the architecture, the blue lake backdrop. I didn’t have my camera. A few days ago, I started carrying the Canon, but the bird was gone.
Yesterday morning, it flapped up from the shore as I passed by. Silently I willed it, “Go to Avanzini’s dock.”
Two Avanzini brothers live on adjacent properties. The bird obligingly landed on Buc Avanzini’s dock.
“No!” I protested, silently again. “I meant the other Avanzini!”
I photographed it anyway. I’ll keep seeking the bird in its perfect spot, wings folded, long neck tucked. Next time, I’ll spell out my request: “Please, pretty bird, pose for me on Tony Avanzini’s dock.”