Thursday, November 3, 2011

Taking Flight

Yesterday at 4 p.m. as I crossed campus to teach my graduate writing workshop, I looked up to see a large egret like this one (but not this one) flying rather low and slowly from the direction of the student union across the tall trees and old brick dorms of the loveliest part of campus. I stopped and stared, and couldn't help noticing that no one around me seemed to notice anything, that is, no one looked up. We're so busy we don't often look up, it seems. Time seemed to slow down, the egret's progress across the sky was so graceful and leisurely, and although I'd been walking quickly it suddenly didn't matter if I was late to class. One young man did stop and asked me, "Are you watching that bird?" I said yes, I used to see them all the time when I lived in northern California. "Me too," he said, and it turned out he had also come to Tucson from California, and we both agreed it was wonderful to see the egret. I told him about the great blue heron Joe and I saw in our neighborhood last week while we were on a morning walk. It flew over and landed on a house, stood there resting a moment, then spread its wings and went on.
When we were at Humboldt State we lived outside Arcata on Mad River Road, which meanders, like the river it follows, through  lush green fields out to the sea. It's an area of dairy farms, where you can walk out among contented cows grazing in grass that grows thick and fast and buttercups up to your knees.  And egrets, dozens of egrets out in the pastures with the cows, doing whatever it is that egrets do.  I never took them, or the peace and beauty they seemed to embody, for granted. Their pure whiteness against all that rich green always made me pause and smile. That's what happened yesterday, when I saw the white bird against the bright blue sky, skimming over green trees and old red brick buildings. It was a gift, and I am grateful

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