It was stormy earlier today, and I hit the beach to hang with the shorebirds when the rain had stopped but the skies and surf were still dark and agitated. As I walked I saw a water bird some distance ahead, larger than the shorebirds, sort of body surfing onto the beach. It was a strange motion, weary and passive, and by the time I reached the bird it was reclining on the sand. Its colors and feathers marked it as a juvenile. There was something off, even though the other birds sometimes lie down on the sand too. I photographed it briefly and then left the beach to go north on A1A to buy some bananas.

When I got back this evening for the sunset light, I saw with dismay that the young bird was dying. There was nothing I could do for it. My heart contracted, and suddenly the prospect of hanging with the shorebirds had been drained of all its joy. I hate this part, I thought. From somewhere a cold and dismissive voice reminded me sternly that this is nature, red in tooth and claw. Take it or leave it.

And then a warmer voice spoke up from somewhere inside me, reminding me that yes, this is nature, but as the parent of another kind of juvenile, it’s no less my nature to grieve it.

 

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