Life in the act of living


My days have been consumed in care-giving. Seeing a loved one struggle is just so hard. Worry gnaws, weariness wears.

I dragged myself out for a walk by the pond. I stopped when I saw a Great Blue Heron hunkered on a log. Shortly the bird straightened up—I thought it was going to leave because of me—then it took wing, but flew low, dragging its feet in the water’s surface and plowing with its great open bill until it snatched the frog it had spotted. The heron wheeled up into the air in one fluid arc, the frog kicking in protest as it was carried right into a sky it had never experienced in its earth-bound life.

I was gobsmacked.

Never before had I seen a heron actually catch something. I had expected its quarry to be a fish; seeing the kicking legs that looked all too human, I felt a sudden despair for the frog that I wouldn’t have felt for a fish. Herons have long been a favorite of mine—their elegance in flight always takes my breath away. But this glimpse of life in the act of living was too close to what was in my days, that near possibility of a loved one making an ascension away from all of us.

Poet Mary Oliver recently made that ascent herself. Perhaps it is as she wrote, “the secret name of every death is life again.”



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