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.