Contributed by Field Staff Writer B. Carleton.
Sometimes life hands us lessons in unattractive and painful packages, but all of them, if opened and inspected thoroughly, provide us with wisdom and understanding.
A few months ago I had a quarrel with a dear friend over something so petty (at the time it seemed to emphasize our inescapable differences) that it tore us apart by the sheer will of my own ego. I will share how absurd that disagreement was because, again, it emphasizes the absurdity of the human need to be right.
My friend, Chris, and I had a shouting match about the fecundity of perch eggs based on the size and age class of the females. Both of us were yelling at each other and the other guys must have thought us insane to be so heated over this topic. It was about being right, and we seemed to always disagree on everything we believed. The argument blew up into a full-scale “I never want to talk to you again” war of words. Forget that this guy had been there for me through thick and thin, a member of our deer camp, my hunting and fishing partner, and my closest of buddies I’ve ever known. I was throwing it all away.
A few weeks ago, my painful lesson was delivered to me by a mutual friend. Chris’ 26 year old son, Andrew, had been in a terrible accident, and was fighting for his life. Suddenly, my ego came into sharp focus for what it is; a character defect that had to be faced for what it had done – tear apart the heart of one of the people I have loved as a friend more than almost anyone I have known. My grief for him was palpable. I had to make right what I had done.
The day I learned of the accident, I was stunned. Three days later Andrew passed.
That night I came home from work late. There was a full moon, and as I stepped out of my truck, I looked up and cried uncontrollably. I begged Grandmother Moon to forgive me. I begged Chris to forgive me. I begged to forgive myself.
For me, my connection to nature and our universe has been all that I have been able to count on for healing and enlightenment. Call it God, Buddha, Christ, Allah, The Great Spirit or a Non-Deity, the power that created all of this was all that I felt I could count on to comprehend, not just the loss of my friend’s son’s life, but of my own spiritual dignity.
This past Saturday, I led a migration watch at Dead Creek in Addison and was blessed by the sight of 800 snow geese that sat patiently in a field, feeding. We all watched in rapt attention and wondered about the miles and miles of flight that these birds had endured, living and feeding, sleeping and flying, together, as if they were one spirit. When one of my participants said “Let’s go get a cup of coffee,” the birds lifted off and flew right over us. There was a brief moment where two birds, flying in perfect unison, presented themselves, white wings glowing in the sunlight, black wingtips nearly touching. I thought “what a wonderful relationship those two have.” My very next thought was of my friend, and a cold teardrop rolled down my cheek. The healing had begun.
I pray for peace and serenity for my friend and his family. I pray that Andrew’s life will serve me and others the lesson; that the value of life is so much greater than one’s political or religious beliefs. And that we might all think before we speak poorly about anyone. I pray that my relationship with Chris can be healed and we can grow closer by sharing his loss. I pray that, one day, we can once again be united in a spirit and friendship that was born of a love for the outdoors.