You direct me on the path that leads to a beautiful life. As I walk with You… I know true joy and contentment. —Psalm 16.11
Our home is near Lake Wilderness in Maple Valley. Just a block-and-a-half from our neighborhood is the trail that leads to all my favorite places… the lake, the arboretum, the river, the forest, and the field where boxes of bees from Yakima “rent” some space each summer.
Most days, we opt for a walk around the lake. Shari loves birds and birds love Lake Wilderness, so it’s a win.
A handful of times each year, we will see a blue heron or two. Even more rarely—maybe once or twice a year—we might see one of them flying over us. Whenever this happens, I stop and watch with reverence. It always feels like a sacred moment.
In Wendell Berry’s book The Long-Legged House, he describes witnessing the flight of a heron…
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I sat one summer evening and watched a great blue heron make his descent from the top of the hill into the valley. He came down at a measured deliberate pace, stately as always, like a dignitary going down a stair. And then, at a point I judged to be midway over the river, without at all varying his wingbeat, he did a backward turn in the air, a loop-the-loop.
It could only have been a gesture of pure exuberance, of joy—a speaking of his sense of the evening, the day’s fulfillment, his descent homeward.
He made just that one slow turn, and then flew on out of sight in the direction of a slew farther down. The movement was incredibly beautiful, at once exultant and stately, a benediction on the evening and on the river and on me. It seemed so perfectly to confirm the presence of a free nonhuman joy in the world—a joy I feel a great need to believe in—that I had the skeptic’s impulse to doubt that I had seen it. If I had, I thought, it would be a sign of the presence of something heavenly in the earth. And then, one evening a year later, I saw it again.
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Now I will be watching and waiting, with fingers crossed, hoping that at least one of the Lake Wilderness great blue herons is joyful.
And I wonder… do I give enough evidence of joy for the creatures who are watching me?