Greetings, HaQ readers – the blog is coming to you late in the day. I’ve had some things on my mind.
Today was a day of rain, and we really needed it. The soft grey day and the blanket of clouds reminded me of those first sweetening days of spring, when the rains wake the earth and a hint of warmth returns. It reminded me of one particular day last spring. It was a morning when I was thinking of a friend.
I was standing on my porch, just enjoying the moment when a song sparrow landed near me. It began scratching and pecking as if I was not there. Song sparrows are common birds, beautiful singers, and not very approachable. This one, however, seemed to be immune to my presence, as was the chipping sparrow that soon joined it. Two small brown birds, going about their business, as if I was a natural part of their world. It was a sweet moment that lingered into the day.
It reminded me of a day, some years ago, that my friend and I spent bird watching in Arizona. We were walking on a path and movement in the leaf litter caught my eye. It was an olive sparrow, shuffling the leaves just a few feet away. We stood and watched it work, unfazed by our presence. Olive sparrows are handsome little fellows, with an olive-brown back and russet crown stripes. Like most sparrows, they are shy and it was a thrill to see one almost at our feet. We tiptoed by, and moved on. The image stayed with me.
That trip to Arizona was wonderful. It was my first time in the desert southwest as an avid birder and it was glorious. I learned a lot, much from my friend. I saw 75 species of birds I’d never seen before. We made several trips with our group over a five-year period. They were all wonderful. He could make me feel safe and adventurous at the same time.
He’d been retired for a few years, enjoying time with his wife and family, and hosting the round-ups after seasonal bird counts. He always gave me the honor of wielding the calculator to total up the compiled numbers for each species. He’d forgotten more about birds than I’ve learned in the first place. His gift was extraordinary, as was his generosity in sharing it.
So I started that day with my friend on my mind. I ended it that way, too. I received word my wonderful birding friend had passed away that day, after declining in health. It was a shock because, while I knew he’d been ill, I didn’t know the severity. Maybe I just wasn’t seeing it. He had not looked well for sometime, but when I looked at him, I always saw my friend. The sense of connection and the sense of loss mingled. I was so sad for myself and for his family.
I miss him. I miss his strong opinions and encyclopedic knowledge, his humor and his edgy twang of an accent, the stories of his travels and his time in the military. He walked with his own peculiar grace in this life. His presence in the world was a gift.
The best way to honor a gift like that is to pass it on. To share a love of something, to nurture new friends in it, to give it time and attention. To hope to keep it going past my time, as he did. Some debts are so large, the only way to pay them back is to pay it forward.
Blessed journey, my friend. You gave me wings.
Stay tuned for more on the Here’s a Quarter blog next week! As always, your thoughts and comments are always welcome – they are moderated (I know – adulting again), so they may take a little while to appear, but I read them all and appreciate that you were here. Thank you!