Life is Good, but also too Short…

I’ve had a peaceful few days of solitude and rest, and processing the past week that I’ve been traveling. At times I wish that time could stand still, but I realized this season how much it doesn’t. I believe the absence of Luke has taught me one of the biggest lessons of my life. He’d been getting steadily worse for over a year now. Mainly in ways I thought I could work out, like he peed on stuff around the house, no matter how much he went out during the day—I could clean up. But lately he became worse in ways I couldn’t manage, like when you suddenly can no longer walk, or your foot just isn’t working like it should. So the vet came, and she helped us wallk him into the great unknown. That evening, when she’d gone out to get the stretcher to take him out of the house, I put my head next to his on his bed. I’ve done this countless times before on the couch when we’ve kept each other company, especially after Madison left. I just put my head next to his, put my hand on his chest and said I love you in the only way I could, which is just to be present. Later I picked him up and carried him to the stretcher. He peed on things one last time. I clipped him in and walked him out. Because I am still here. One friend reminded me, when I said, “nobody is here anymore,” that I am still here. He said, with very few words, and no bullshit, “you are still here.”

This week I saw my brother, sister in law and nephew, who was contempating that he hadn’t seen his extended family in a while.  I saw my beloved sister, with whom I shared a room growing up, and my nieces, who continue to grow like weeds. I saw my Mom and Dad.  Dad is 80. Mom is 71. I tried to be of use to them while I stayed at their home. I admit I sometimes call them whimsical parents, mainly because of how often we moved when we were kids (my mom sited 28 moves during my childhood, when I was visiting).  They did their best I think, and also made some hard mistakes, but none of their mistakes had to do with lack of love. And with that I can be short on memory and long on forgiveness.

To go and visit them, I once again took the Greyhound bus, which is both a magical treat and maybe a little not great. Mostly minorities ride the bus in the South, so I’m one of the few white folks taking the Greyhound. I’m always anxious on the bus, but I always experience such generosity from others while I’m traveling On my way home, I had two really wonderful experiences. During the first I saw an Indian mother make sure her children had seats in the Atanta terminal. I was reading a book and not really paying attention. My bags were in the next seat to keep them from getting in people’s way. After a minute I noticed she was standing, and keeping an eye on her children who were directly behind me, so I began to move my things and I said, “Here, why don’t you sit down.” At that moment, several people around me looked at me like I’d sprouted an extra head. People in the Atlanta Greyhound terminal work hard to protect their personal space. She smiled and thanked me. Then the guy next to her moved over so her husband could come and sit as well. A little while later, the Dad mentioned we should all get in our line, even though it was the bus before ours that was lining up, and I was so glad I listened. The bus was double booked, and while another bus was coming, I was able to get on the first bus and get home earlier than if I’d sat on a chair instead of getting in line. But I got in line next to a whole family of people I’m now almost certain were from Haiti (though I may just be making that assumption). Their youngest, a tiny boy who was perhaps two, and full of all the spirit of anyone who has just learned to walk and is doing it with extreme exuberance, started in on a game of peek-a-boo with me, over the top of my book. I would read a little, then he would come around the side of his father and wait for me to look over the edge of my worn novel (I got it in a used bookstore) and then he would laugh this long, loud belly laugh, which for some reason reminded me of Buddha. Like in my heart I believe Buddha had the spirit of a toddler…just as joyful and unencumbered. After he laughed so loud, I would laugh too, and then he would run around the side of his dad again and the game would begin anew. On his last try before we boarded the bus, he reached up and tried to take my book. And it was exactly as if he was asking me to let go of all my shit and just be real and present. His mom yelled a him for being disrespectful, but my heart swelled at this joyful mischief. It was like I was saying, I am trying to read and disconnect but I will acknowledge that you are terrific, and he was saying, “I am trying to meet you. Why won’t you pay attention?”

I boarded the bus and sat next to a young black man in a hoody. We both watched a movie and listened on headphones. But when we stopped unexpectedly in Duncan, NC to pick up a few passengers that had been left behind, and I asked him if we all needed to get off the bus, he smiled and said, “I think you get to choose. You can stay and rest if you want to.”

I know he was coming from, or going to a mom and dad, just as I was. I don’t know what the situation of the very young child who tried to take my book and spoke French with his mother was, but the confidence and joy with which he conducted himself lead me to believe he was loved. However imperfectly.

On this trip I kept going back to the Third Great Lesson from Maria Montessori.  The subject of our fantastic holiday performance, “Early Humans.” I keep remembering that as humans we share what we have, and love…not just those we know but even the larger community, and that we bury our dead.

I know that seems somewhat, perhaps, depressing, but the truth is we all die.  This morning when I got up, my first though was, “Of course I miss him. He was here for seventeen years.  And now he isn’t.” This past week I tried to help and love as best I could, even if I’m flawed, and probably a bit whimsical myself.  I also understood that we are all growing older, and will not be here nearly long enough. Not if we’re here for fifty years and not if we’re here for a hundred.

But as I saw the tall buildings of Charlotte come onto the horizon, I understood how much I love coming home.  Do you know, this is the longest, by far, I’ve ever lived in one place? Do you know that in Charlotte, I love so many people and love my life so hard that it sometimes makes me cry?  I know I’m sensitive. Do you understand that my life is absolutely good and that I feel cared for by my community? Do you know that in spite of some troubles, my overwhelming feeling is gratitude for this life?  It’s such a good life, it’s just goes so fast, and it’s so short.

With all that, my 2020 resolution isn’t to lose weight or “be best,” or anything giant, it’s to maybe learn to play the cello, because I love the sound of it, and I want to feel those vibrations running through my body. I don’t have any false hopes of being different (i’m already different enough). I don’t need to be “more grateful,” I’m so grateful every day. But I want to go to Howren music, plop down enough to rent a cello, and learn to play.

Homecoming…some words about the climate strike

I haven’t written in a while.  Not here, and not really anywhere.  Sure, every once in a while I’ll try out a haiku, but I recognize that for a while now, I’ve been slacking.  Do I not have the words? Is there a lot on my mind? Writing always happens for me when I recognize I have something to say, and magically I seem to have the ability to put together the words to say that in the exact way that I want to.

I haven’t felt that spark lately.  Sometimes I come home and have a glass of wine or two instead.  Sometimes I’m gripped by the terrible anxiety I think we’re all feeling.  I dream about friends and family and have to call and make sure they’ve not suffered some terrible emergency.  Last night I dreamed that Anna, a teacher I work with, was helping me pick out shoes. And like much that is going on at the moment, that didn’t make sense, except that she does have good taste in shoes.

Last week I reread the book Last Chance to See which was written by famous fiction writer Douglas Adams and his biologist friend, Mark Carwardine.  It chronicled their trip around the world in the 80s to see some of the rarest animals left on earth and also the efforts being made at the time to save them.  Rare in this case meaning not quite extinct, but going that way. The writing in this book always takes my breath away because it does such a wonderful comedic/anthropological job of poking fun at human folly.  The ways in which we continue to not learn our lessons, for instance. I always finish this book feeling entertained, saddened and also a bit out of hope since that was thirty some odd years ago now and what has changed?  Species are going extinct at the rate of 150 to 200 per day. That happens to be a lot faster than was happening during the 80s, so yes, I’m just a bit alarmed about it.

We are alarmed about a lot of things right now.  Different people are alarmed about different things. And yet, and yet…we all have this one thing in common.  That we know of, we have this one home we are all sharing. If you feel you have nothing in common with the people around you, nothing at all….if you feel like a fish out of water.  You do have that one thing in common with everyone. And when it comes down to it, its really the most important thing to everyone on the planet (without which we wouldn’t exist).  

I’m not sure what’s brought us to this great disconnect with reality that I feel humans are experiencing on a giant scale.  What has brought us to thinking our waters can take whatever we care to dump into them and still retain life? What has brought us to think that our air can suck up all the exhaust of all the many transportational machines we’ve got moving us hither and yon, and still support life?  What has brought us to think that the earth itself can suck up any manner of poison that we’ll carelessly dump and still support life?

I’ve been riding Little Sugar Creek Greenway in Charlotte NC daily for the past six years. I’ve ridden past paint spills, I’ve ridden after floods when all the garbage washes up onto the bridges and and sidewalks so that you end up riding an obstacle course. I’ve ridden when there was a rainbow sheen of oil floating across the water. It’s my daily “drive” so I notice. I noticed that evening in December a few years back when someone leaked a massive amount of diesel into the creek and the smell as I rode home was sickening. I noticed when for months after when nothing could really live there. And i noticed as life started trickling back. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, seeing life back in the creek, but I’m not naive enough to think that dumping doesn’t still happen down there. A few weeks ago the water was cloudy again, and I saw that rainbow sheen, and I felt helpless.

There are days I absolutely wonder how we survived this long.  A few years ago I took my daughter on a road trip across northern Illinois to see my hometown.  It’s a visit that still sticks with me when I remember it. We came across the bridge that crosses the Fox River in Ottowa Illinois and separates the South Side from the North side.  We came up next to the square, we passed my grade school. As soon as we crossed the bridge I started sobbing. I hadn’t really been home since the age of ten, not there, to my hometown.  When I was little we wandered the town on our own. We walked to the library and to school and rode bikes to the quarry where the boys would do jumps and I would look on in worry. In the summer, my mom would take us to the square, and for at least a few years we’d get on a bus and go out to Starved Rock, to participate in a Nature Camp.  We walked those woods and checked out every indigineous plant that was pointed out. We bird watched and listened to short lectures, and once we tie dyed shirts by the river. I went to a lot of camps over the years but that was the best one. It taught me to recognize my home. When I went home a few years ago, I was stunned at my reaction to being back in my homeland (it was like a child finding it’s mother after being lost), and I wondered about humans.  Were we meant to be indigineous? That’s what it felt like going home, even though I haven’t called that home in 40 years. That I was indigineous to that place and had just been lost.

When I think about the Great Climate Strike tomorrow, I think about my hometown of Ottowa, and of coming home and realizing that square, that school, that quarry, that library, those streets, and the map in my brain I could remember after all of these years…that home was loved by me.  I realized how important it is to our human nature to belong to a place…to love it with our feet and our toil. And I realized all that is lost when you distance yourself, when you disconnect, from that homeland.

We have already lost so much.  200 species per day…some of them trees, some of them birds, some of them tiny bugs we’ll never see or care about.  We’ve lost the Northern White Rhino, which was one of the featured “rare” animals of Last Chance to See. I keep wondering when it will occur to us as humans, that we are a species in the middle of a mass extinction.

Tomorrow is the climate strike and I’ll be there.  I’ve come home.

Stay Weird: The Magic of Not Belonging…

At 19 getting on an army bus…

Last night was the fourth. I wasn’t sure what to do with myself, since I’m currently struggling to get excited about our country that’s occasionally so divided up into segments of population all shouting out a host of opinions. I sat on the porch watching the wind walk up the street during the thunderstorm, listening to that rolling boom that has nothing to do with pyrotechnics. I read some, and then I started watching TV. As it was I thought I was in for the night.

Then I heard the explosions starting, from what seemed to be a ridiculously close distance–say, next door. I wasn’t sure what our new neighbor might have gotten up to because I came home yesterday evening to her daughter throwing flaming batons in their front yard. I decided to investigate. As the booms increased in frequency and volume, I decided I didn’t want to miss one second of whatever was happening, so I ran across the house to get my shoes and slammed the door on the way out. I got to the street and looked down towards the park where it seemed like all the black people in our neighborhood (and maybe beyond), had gathered for a very large celebration. There were fireworks going off on the street, in the park, and from somewhere behind the new apartment buildings. There was a DJ. There were people of every age, some of whom I recognized from having lived here in Cherry for the past 11 years. A young man let off a mighty box of fireworks and brought the empty box back to the car that was next to the garbage can on which I was leaning. As he passed, i said, “Was that last one yours?” He looked at me with a smile, “Yes.” “It was terrific.”

I forgot to mention that on my way down to the park, a young white mother had come out with her six year old daughter to also admire the fireworks, but when a black woman in a sparkly dress got out of a car at the corner, clearly dropped off late to this party, the mother quickly gathered her daughter and turned around. Which was disappointing, since we’d just had a conversation while walking down the block about the fact that maybe her daughter would see this as the “real fireworks” and then the hassle of a car trip into uptown might be avoided.

It should be understood at this point that I certainly didn’t bust up into the party and make myself known. I quietly leaned against the side of a trash can with my glass of wine, and helped open it twice when people needed to throw things away (including the talented young explosives expert I’d just complimented). This is how I am in all situations. I quietly take stock, often from the edges of civilization. In new situations, I’m always a shrinking violet though to people I know, I’m certainly not shy.

The other day, someone asked me again where I’m from. The truth is I hardly have an answer to that question. I was born in one place and raised in a host of disparate houses, states and schools. I was always on the edge, looking in. There was never a time before the last fifteen years, that I was not the outsider in any situation. Its the reason I now cling so desperately to the communities I’ve found here in Charlotte, but I was thinking this morning it’s the very heart of myself, the weird outsider, the strange minority. I spent my life there, in new schools and new towns. i often watched life unfold from the sidelines of each new place, looking for the similar thread between my humanity and another’s. Not understanding our system of segregation in various parts of the country, searching for ways to experience belonging and sameness–basically with whomever would have me.

In my life I’ve often been the only white person for miles, and I’ve often been the only woman on a team. Over time I just became comfortable with the idea that I will sometimes be uncomfortable. I will sometimes be new, and I will not always know what to say or do. That’s what I learned from years of crying in the back corner of the classroom, or being the only person at school on Halloween without a costume, or moving to a new place where the dialect is different enough that it feels like learning a new language, or living in another country, where the language spoken is my second language, and i do not look like anyone else.

There was the time of being seperated from my then fiance in Seoul, who was hard to find because he was short with straight black hair in a sea of people who looked just the same as him. There was that time on Team Spirit where necessity meant that I needed to be part of communal bathing in the town where we were stationed. I’ve moved a hundred times in my life and observed all manner of community from the outside, trying to see in what ways we were the same and how I could best reconcile myself to “belong” wherever I was.

It means I often don’t have the same experience of fear as people I know. New or different does not equate to dangerous. When I walked down the street last night, I guess I experienced something very different than the mother from across the street. I saw a bunch of people (a few of whom I know, but most of whom I don’t), having a party, which happens every day, all over the world, but which especially happens in the summer in the US, and isn’t a reason to fear. But she saw something different, and turned around at the sight of the sequinned lady getting out of the car. It was a moment where I realized that perspective is everything. One moment we were having a conversation and the next she was walking her child back home.

Meanwhile I just stood leaning on the garbage can on the sidewalk, watching human beings behave like human beings. I did what I always do, which is to find the common thread of humanity we might have, and teather myself to it whenever I feel uncomfortable, whenever I’m existing on the fringes. Truly it’s that very thread that has always helped guide me home.

The Art and Struggle of Learning to Ride…

I’ve recently started giving private bike riding lessons, sometimes starting from scratch, and sometimes working mainly on safety training. This morning i was starting from scratch in Independence Park with a brand new bike and boy who hadn’t yet learned to ride. I’ve done this a few times now, with various degrees of success. Sometimes a person is so ready it just comes naturally, and sometimes it takes a little time to get things going.

Through this process I continue to learn lessons about children, humans and how we learn (as opposed to how we’d prefer to learn). With my perverse sense of always wanting things to be easy and go smoothly, i sometimes feel that watching someone learn to ride bares a pretty decent resemblance to how I learn lessons, and sometimes have to learn the same lessons again.

I think I should say this now. I experience great excitement in vicariously learning to ride a bike again and again. Seeing that face when a child has learned to combine balance and pedaling…it’s a really good feeling. It sends joy sparkling through my entire being to watch someone’s smile when they are flying down the sidewalk and they’ve realized they’ve made their own bike go. It’s one of the most unique feelings of freedom that exists, wheeling around on a bicycle.

Today I got to watch a young person work so hard (we were both sweating). He tried again and again, amongst many failed attempts and a few falls. I’ve learned from experience when a little, well placed advice is called for and when to stay quiet and allow focus to happen. And also when to squelch my joyous enthusiasm as there’s nothing more detrimental to focus that a poorly placed, “OMG YOU’RE DOING IT!” In my moments of keeping myself restrained, and managing my own behavior I began to have a conversation with myself about struggle and how struggle and failure get such a bad name in our current world.

This morning in the park I was considering my own relationship with struggle. Struggle is such a natural ingredient of bike riding. You simply can’t learn without struggling to do it. Its kind of the same thing as learning to walk. If you’ve ever watched that process in a little person, it’s excruciating and takes such a long time, from pulling up, to balancing for a few seconds, to sliding along furniture one handed, letting go of the brace for the first time, and finally taking those first few wobbly steps. It’s the same struggle learning to bike. There’s no way around that hard work and difficulty. Today I mentioned, “Your body is learning to do a new movement, it’s learning how to balance, lean a little and turn (we were practicing turning). Right now your body is figuring out how much to lean and how much to turn the handlebars.” He replied with a smile, “I wish my body would hurry up.”

I think we all wish that about ourselves throughout life. I wish I could just get past this struggle. I wish this was easier. Why does this take so long. Why do I keep having to learn this? I’ve learned over time, I think sometimes from watching people learn how to ride bikes, that we are all just living here on this planet, learning to be human. We come to each new stage of the came so unprepared for the next part. We get this new bit of life and have to learn a brand new skill and we’re like babies learning how to walk all over again.

I’ve learned you can’t push someone into learning faster, you can’t force it, you can’t rush it. The body goes through the practice for as long as it needs to and it happens when it happens. All that body needs is some time, and, in the best circumstances, for someone to bear witness and be patient. Today I got to see the exact moment of transition from, okay I can sometimes get this bike going but it’s still sort of accidental, to a body realizing without thought or pressure that it knows the movement, that it knows how to fly. If you watch someone on a bicycle you realize what a balancing act a body is doing to make everything go and turn and keep from falling. It’s kind of a miracle.

Anyway, enough. Just know that whatever bicycle you’re learning to ride today, give yourself time and call on the patient people in your life to let you know you’re getting there and to just keep trying.

Street Gifts, Big and Small…

This morning I was on my regular route from home to school, right along the greenway, through Freedom Park, catching the Jameston/Irby connection when I rolled up on this latest gift on the route. It’s a flashing red. It’s at an intersection (Westfield and Hillside) that is already a four way stop, at a place where a whole bunch of people need to interact, walkers, cyclists and drivers.

I’ve watched all improvements taking place over the course of the past few weeks on this small section of the greenway that many of our school families use every day, and that anywhere between 20-50 kids use on any given Friday during the school year. The women that run our Bicycle Friday ride are so thankful that we are getting these improvements. We’d love to see anything that brings increased awareness to this route that we travel so frequently.

I think I felt doubly thankful because I’d just come by that bend in the road on Irby where a driver ran me off the road a few months ago because they were driving on the wrong side of the road in a blind curve. This morning a policewoman was there taking a statement in that curve from one of the neighbor’s there who’s car had been hit while parked there, by someone once again driving on the wrong side of the road, or at least driving to close to a parked car because they weren’t paying attention to the very important task at hand.

One of the major issues we have on our Friday rides, besides the surprising frequency with which a few of our children lose their shoes in the middle of the street, ride through mud puddles willy nilly or shout weee down long hills, is the fact that drivers are distracted. It’s the elephant in the room of using Charlotte streets. We all know it’s happening, it’s allowed to happen, and if you happen to kindly point out to a driver that they should put their phone down, they’re likely to get upset with you for pointing it out rather than themselves for doing it.

Last night I went to something called the Ride of Silence, which honors people who’ve been hit by drivers on Charlotte Streets. I realized as I was there how very tired of this ride I am. How very tired I am of hearing another friend/mother/father/sister/child was hit by a distracted driver while just trying to get where they are going.

Yesterday evening I stood at a crosswalk and waited for one car to stop and let me go (I had the signal), the countdown of the walk signal began before someone stopped. Yesterday on my way home from the ride, I was crossing an intersection when a driver suddenly darted out and stopped right in front of me, then laughed and yelled out the window, “I bet I scared the shit out of you.”

These moments make me feel sad and hopeless, so I needed this little blinking light today. I need the improvements that are being made at this intersection (one of my Bicycle Friday teammates said today, “it feels like they’re making that intersection safer just for us.”). I’m going to go with that.

I’m proud of the work our city is doing on creating better roads, using traffic calming and active transit design, and expanding our greenway/trail system, because our world is changing and we’re going to need all of these solutions.

My hope is always that at the end of the day, children can ride and walk safely in their own neighborhoods, that they can enjoy the freedom and wonder that playing outside brings, as well as the seemingly forever adventure of the walk/ride to school. It’s a gift, one that we all once took for granted, that I’d like to see taken for granted once again. You can contribute to this gift by putting down your phones and driving well. And we’ll contribute by continuing to show our young people how to be good road users. 🚲❤️

Clt 7th Street Cycle Track Connection

If you are a cyclist in Charlotte who hasn’t been living under a rock, you will have heard of or seen our latest bit of cycling infrastructure. It’s been touted as an awesome connection from the Little Sugar Creek Greenway to the Irwin Creek greenway on the other side of town. I had a bit of time today after a bike riding lesson. So I scouted it for an upcoming ride, and spent some time riding it in both directions all the way to where the finished construction ends at the train tracks at Imaginon/Seventh Street Station. It ended up that I wanted to write a bit of a review from an educational standpoint, just because I tend to ride everything from the point of view of how would I ride this with children.

Above is the first section of the cycle track, as you leave the greenway at seventh street. You don’t have to cross traffic to get to it, you can just hop right on. The only issue with this is that because you have hopped right on going opposite traffic on the wrong side of the street, there’s really no way to get anywhere to the right/north of 7th. Which is fine if we assume that’s what you want, to go directly towards uptown, and not use any of the wonderful connections that exist to get north of town, which only seasoned riders would know about in the first place.

So on seventh street I crossed the bridge and went through the underpass, where I faced my first point of confusion. The lane ends. It appears in the way it ends that you’re required to jump a sidewalk here, or take that left into the parking lot behind the building at seventh and Mcdowell. That’s fine, it goes all the way through, nearly to the corner of Mcdowell and 6th where you can get back onto the cycle track. One of the things I’ve always appreciated about bikes is that you can take routes cars can’t, so I was okay with that option. But again, It’s important to remember that once you pull out of the parking lot, you still have to ride a few feet on a sidewalk facing traffic before you get to the corner. At the corner you can cross over, and get onto the bike lane and continue your ride. The first part of the bike lane is one way, like most lanes, but at the corner of N. Meyers, it transitions into the two lane cycle track that was promised. I forgot to mention that on the seventh street portion, the way it is currently marked, it’s unclear if it’s a one or two way track. I’m hoping signage and road markings will improve to reflect what should happen in both directions.

Once you are on the two way portion of the cycle track it’s pretty clear what should happen. There are a few important things to remember. The first important thing to remember is that you should ride a cycle track that’s next to parking garages and pull outs the same way you’d ride a sidewalk. Never assume you are seen. The bright green paint they laid down all along sixth street isn’t to make the cycle track look super cool. Bright green paint actually marks the danger zones that exist on the track. Those pesky intersections of cars and bikes where many of us get hit. Those are to warn both you (and hopefully the driver as well) that everyone needs to be paying attention.

The other thing to remember is that people on scooters are already using this bike way as one would use a multi-use path. If you’ve done any riding on the greenway, you may tend to recognize the pattern. People who travel in groups love to travel side by side and take up the whole road in mixed use areas, which means anyone passing has to make some sort of noise to get around–sometimes loud noises, if a person is using headphones and unable to hear. Twice on the two way cycle track today, people on scooters were using both lanes, which would seem to indicate that this will be a mixed use track, and one needs to watch out for folks who don’t want to use it as suggested. But that’s kind of the case whether you are using road, mixed use path or bike lane.

I’m kind of holding off final judgement until all the signs and markings are in place, For now this infrastructure gets a “Meh.” I mean it’s alright. To a person who is experienced and confident riding in traffic, and knows all the best routes through the city, it is a limiting bit of infrastructure. However I can envision circumstances in which I would ride it or suggest it to someone as a route (with qualifiers). It’s also important to remember that it might also be the one reason someone begins bike commuting to their uptown job, and for that person, it may feel like a pretty awesome way to go. So much depends on perspective. In all, i’m all for using the various methods within our reach of getting more people in our city active, healthy and comfortable with riding bikes.

Life is Full of Shit and Also Wonder

This past weekend, I got to take a wonderful, pre-birthday trip down to Greenville, South Carolina. A group of four teacher friends went down together to unwind on this last weekend before Spring Break (and also, the weekend before my birthday).

This is my second such trip down to Greenville, and what I so appreciate about it is what a gentle experience it is to spend time in the company of wonderful people. We spent a lot of time chatting through some of the world’s biggest problems, taking in all of the multitude of spring blossoms, birds and weddings, riding bikes, and eating good food.

On Saturday we rode down to Furman University. There we snagged a chocolate chip cookie a piece and walked down to the lake to find a slice of shade on a bench, under a tree. As we’d ridden around the lake at Furman, we couldn’t help but notice all the young folk dressed in formal wear, waiting for whatever young folk dance was taking place that evening on campus. Families snapped pictures, couples hugged under shade trees and leaned against the rail of an arched wooden bridge. It was all a little bit magical. Someone celebrated a 20th birthday with friends, turtles sunned en mass on rocks and islands, ducks, geese and swans floated on the water that reflected the clear blue sky.

We, the four friends, soaked it all in.

We sat on that bench near the lake, looking out at the various goings on, when all of the sudden, we noticed a heron. Standing, somewhat like an alien, or oddly shaped human, right at the edge of the pond, looking over the water. When we first spotted the heron, it was about twenty feet away, just inching towards us, slowly scanning the surface of the water. At first we chatted among ourselves, but after realizing the heron was sidling ever closer to our bench, we became silent. There was this energy of expectation, of witnessing a miracle in progress. I sat there silently watching it, my head spinning in weird thoughts. I’ve always seen the heron as my spirit animal in the sense of it’s slow and prideful independence. I thought perhaps the universe had taken this moment, just days before my 50th birthday, to reveal itself to me. I know, looking back I totally realize that was possibly a bit of foolishness, swimming around in my nearly 50 year old head as the heron drew ever nearer. On the bench we continued to hold our collective breath and stare silently, as the heron filled our souls with something like bounty.

By the end it was within five feet. And then, I don’t know what happen in it’s heron brain…maybe…”these ladies are creeping me out,” but it turned away from us, after it had ventured so close. It just turned, and as it stalked off into the grass near the lake, it unceremoniously shat on the ground in our direction. And just then I had an epiphany about life. That this is exactly it. A never ending story of the miraculous revealing itself, followed by unceremonious squirts of shit. I walked away from that bench, back to my bicycle, back to all the hard news I’ve heard these past few weeks from family and friends, with the realization that life is full of shit, but also….wonder.