Wild birds & Spirited musings for Life’s journey
70 Full-color photographs including songbirds, woodpeckers, raptors, hummingbirds, shorebirds, and migrating birds. Most photos were taken in New Mexico.
96 pages including 6 original inspiring essays and many uplifting and thought-provoking quotes. Essay titles are:
- How My Spirit was Realigned on the Bay
- From Mysteries to Discoveries, Questions to Convictions
- Wonder More than Slumber
- Advanced Adult Living: It’s Not for the Faint Hearted
- Sacred Geometry, God’s Cosmic Signature
- In Life as in the Dictionary, Gratitude Always Comes Before Joy
How My Spirit was Realigned on the Bay (first essay)
After our family tragedy, which I wrote about in Broken Ground of the Soul: The Healing Power of the Psalms, solo kayaking was an activity which eventually helped to restore and realign my spirit. Even though I love kayaking, it had been years since I’d been on the water. Pleasure had long been dormant within me.
Then one fall afternoon, a full five years after my niece’s murder, I realized that I wanted to get out on the water. It surprised me, yet there it was. I decided to leave work early and go paddling. I clearly remember the day.
There was hardly anyone on Richardson Bay, which lies just north of San Francisco, in full view of the Golden Gate Bridge. The currents and swells were frisky, but not contrary and the wind visited by way of only an occasional whisper. The sky was powder blue and expansive, with an approaching storm still some distance offshore.
A raucous orchestra of seagulls had soared overhead, then assembled together, sounding like so many instruments tuning up before a concert. A small congregation of silvery-brown pelicans had taken flight and I watched with anticipation as they dove for their dinner with majestic precision. Each in turn skimmed, then glided high above the water. Once an entrée was in sight, they summoned a focused grace and made their descent with a burst of speed and a swift snapping shut of wings. The resounding woosh and thwak gave me chills. It was the same every time. Each mighty Pelican was beneath, then back above the water within the quick intake of my breath.
I paddled on and on mindful of so many spectacular scenes, enjoying the sweet silence away from shore and the slight scent of brine in the balmy air. Moving as one with the kayak, I embraced each uplift and keel, sidestep and rocking lullaby motion, following in time with the spontaneous choreography of current, swell and wave. I enjoyed the feel of the paddle in my hands, and marveled at the way the simple, primitive design of paddle and kayak enabled my arms to become the silent engine that powered that intimate craft. I loved the sometimes easy, sometimes labored effort of each pull and push; and how the work and rest of each stroke matched the rhythm of my breathing.
Exhilaration coursed through the length and breadth of me as I moved through the water, and there was an unmistakable quality of stillness somehow infused in the motion itself.
As it approached 5:00 pm I knew I needed to head back. Surveying the water’s surface, at last the sighting I had hoped for occurred. Those endearingly bright eyes, tiny ears, wet nose and shimmering whiskers suddenly appeared. Bobbing up through the water, the way someone pulling on a snug turtleneck suddenly pops out the top, momentarily all eyes and looking slightly startled. I love their inquisitive gaze, their sleek, playful movements and that hint of camaraderie.
Harbor seals tease and frolic. They come into view, make eye contact, then with a twinkle and a blink they extend an invitation to play. Only to disappear into the depths. Each time I see one I experience delight; every time I imagine their tacit invitation to play, followed by my unspoken answer which is always, “Yes.”
As I neared the beach I turned slightly to my right, and pulled the cord that lifts and stows the rudder. One last measure of momentum, then I drifted until the tip of the kayak nudged and nestled into the outer hem of the sand. As I positioned the paddle behind me, bracing to exit, I paused. Comfortable in the seat, I inhaled. Slowly, deeply, as my lungs filled and expanded with the coolness of the salt sea air, I was awestruck with the realization that I was teeming with pleasure. Feeling nourished and overcome with gratitude, every cell in my body rejoiced.
What a time I’d had; what a glorious gift of Nature I’d been given. I remember thinking, “This is why I love the water.” The ancient, unique ecology, with its terrifying power and its healing powers. It contains the mystery of Revelation and the balm of Gilead. Giving oneself over to such a combination re-orders priorities and realigns the spirit. It is a form of prayer. What most matters once again becomes apparent and what does not becomes easier to relinquish. In that moment I realized another level of release and healing had begun. The words which author and Buddhist teacher Sylvia Boorstein had so recently and warmly spoken to me came to mind,
“Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.”
It dawned on me then that I’d moved from being crushed in spirit, to experiencing deep gladness. I was choosing life and blessing and joy.