I was walking along the beach when I came upon an injured Anhinga. He was a magnificent bird with a solid black head, a long beak, and black and white speckled feathers. I knew he was injured when he failed to move as I approached. I knelt beside him trying not to frighten him, but he seemed oblivious to my presence. Although he did not appear to be looking for help, I ignored his indifference, put on my knightly armor, and grabbed my sword to rescue him from his apparent distress.

Not knowing what to do and not wanting to cause more harm, I grabbed my phone and googled animal rescue. I found a listing and sent them multiple emails with pictures and location information. I provided my cell number in case they needed anything further from me. I said a prayer to St. Francis, assured the bird help was on its way, and let go.

The bird remained on my mind and I looked his direction occasionally, as I strolled down the beach, to see if the rescue people arrived. An hour or so later, I walked back and he was peacefully sleeping with his head turned and his beak nestled in his back feathers. I knew he was dying and I felt helpless. I did all I could do, but I wanted to do more. I walked away hoping the rescue society would respond.

The next day I returned to the spot where I left him and his lifeless body lay stretched out in the sand. I drew the blame gun out of my arsenal to shoot myself with shame for not doing more, but then I heard my God-self talking. I realized his passing was an example of the ebb and flow of nature and life. There was nothing I could or should have done differently. The bird knew that, but I wasn’t paying attention.

I thought of all the times we each suffer death. Sometimes it is death of the body and sometimes it is the death of an idea, an identity, or a relationship. I was reminded that the only constant is change and that resistance is the root of all suffering. Some things need to die and the trick is to know when not to interfere. I ruminate now on the times in my life that I interfered. Well meaning, but destructive interference. I ignored my God voice and tried to help those who did not need nor request my help. My arrogance is thinking I know what is best. It is a hard lesson to learn and I keep receiving opportunities to “get it.” My gratitude extends to this bird for providing yet another opportunity to learn.

I walked later along the shore composing these thoughts in my head and I returned to my rented beach house to put my thoughts on paper. On my way, I passed a woman in a pickup truck frantically calling to her husband who was working construction on a house nearby. She was begging him to come closer to look at something, but he was clearly ignoring her.

She looked at me with pleading eyes “Do you know anything about turtles?”

“I know a little,” I said

“Could I show you something?”

I approached her truck. Tucked away on the passenger side was a grapefruit sized turtle she found in the road. He had clearly been struck by a car as his shell was slightly crushed and blood trickled down his legs. It was hard to tell how badly he was hurt as he was active and clearly frightened to be handled by humans.

“I don’t know what to do,” she said as tears welled up in her eyes.

“It is probably best just to let nature take its course and take him back to where you found him.” I said. I assured her there was really nothing she could do. I could tell she knew that already, but she just needed permission. Permission was my gift to her.

It is not often that I am given the opportunity to learn a lesson and, almost immediately, put the lesson into practice.  However, that is precisely what this, my island home, provides to me daily. It is a place for me to learn and a place for me to teach. Opportunities abound when I am at home with myself. I am grateful to be in a place that allows me such freedom.

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