On the walk to the river my brother Ed Wiercioch called and I surprised him by answering during the early evening (we usually talk at night). We had a great heartfelt chat about our lives, our concern for friends who are ill, the importance of living a vital life, taking time for fun excursions, and making time among people who are happy to be with you. We talked about how grateful we are to have such a wonderful, mentally sharp, relatively healthy mom and how rare this seemed to be. I liked visiting with him so much I stayed on the phone right into getting on the river. He sort of primed the pump for the evening. After our call I recognized how lucky I am to have such wonderful siblings as well. There’s a saying you can choose your friends but not your family, which is true, but if I could choose, I’d be most happy to select the very same loving family.
As I shifted my focus onto the river and float, I saw a new friend, a hawk, hanging out on the same dead limb overhead for the second evening in a row. It was perched high enough to not be bothered by my presence. It appeared to be a familiar old friend, a Swainson’s hawk, for which I have a certain fondness. I used to go to a large empty field in an industrial park when I was a shy high school kid, where I knew one would frequently hang out. On a given weekend morning I’d sit still for hours under the lone Osage orange tree in that field and wait for it to show. Soon after, as a budding wannabe wildlife artist, it was one of the first birds I painted back in the day. Back to this present day, while the warm evening air was nice it also has contributed to the water level being very low, so it requires some extra attention to maneuver on the float without rising off the tube, which I’ve never yet had to do. Kinda like adjusting to your body’s age along with your peers, something I spoke about with a friend on the job earlier in the day.
I also saw my regular new friends: the green heron, then the Great Blue, and lastly, a female black crowned night heron, who seems evermore comfortable with my presence. She posed for some photos as I passed, showing off her lovely color harmonies: her plumage of streaked soft gray umbers, accented nicely by slate blue on the end of her bill, and highlighted by her stunning brick red eyes while she perched on a pink rock as the sun set.
It was a cloudy evening but the much-needed rain didn’t fall. It made for a cool end to the float, so I took my time drying off on the roughly poured concrete just beyond the bridge where I get out. All at once I heard my name; to my pleasant surprise two dear friends (Katy K. & Bruce Houghton) happened to be walking the Greenway behind me at that very instant. We hadn’t had a chance to catch up since my travels, so I happily walked with them. When asked about Ireland, I said words fall short, but if pressed to summarize, both the lands and the people were more “heart-centered” than anything I’d experienced. Being good friends, they were aware that this was perfectly in sync with my steadily shifting approach to life, a more intuitive direction I’d been taking this last year. Both of these sweet folks work in the music business and are sensitive to life in all the best ways. So of course I excitedly shared a few stories about my magical heart-guided adventures. I recall saying something to the effect that I wasn’t sure where this heartful path was leading me but I was committed to staying on it. “It’s wonderful yet hard to do” my friend offered. I said “Yes...But not really, it’s really very easy to be open-hearted.” “Well for sure it suits what you’re about and who YOU really are” he said supportively.
We stepped onto the long Vic Thomas Park walking bridge that crosses the river. All the while I’ve been carrying a 52” inner tube and trying to keep out of the way of other walkers, joggers, and bikers using the Greenway. A short way onto the bridge we saw a man approaching us with two toddlers, holding the hand of one, the other ambling just in front of him. Without warning, the free one suddenly raced away toward us! My friends were in front of me and for the briefest instant we all were taken aback, wondering what to do. The father called out his name, but the determined three foot-tall runner ignored him and came at us full trot. He made a beeline for about 30 feet, scooted past my kind friends and directly toward me. I dropped the tube, knelt down, and as I did he leapt into my arms and gave me a tight, profoundly affirming hug of affection. Even as his father caught up to us, little Khalid did not want to let go — nor did I, to be completely truthful. It was a most perfect gift from a perfect stranger on a perfect evening.
None of us knew each other. We greeted, shared names, and eventually Bryant (Khalid and his younger brother, Kendrix’s father) was able to pry Khalid loose of me and they headed on their way. We walked to my friends’ car, still in the glow of what had just happened, hugged and parted ways. On my return across the bridge en route back toward my home, my path crossed the trio again, this time both boys firmly in dad’s grasp. He was in his early twenties, and the boys were two and three. I learned he had moved here five years ago from DC to be nearer his mom. His father had passed a few years before he moved here. His mother had died last February, aged 46. I asked a few more gentle questions and as we went our ways, encouraged him that his time with these boys was an invaluable investment that would pay huge dividends, and their trusting nature proved he was doing a lot very well as a dad.
On my walk in the dark toward home, I thought about the many friends in my life: all four siblings who I can claim as forever-close friends, new ones this magical year of the heart has offered (including nonhuman ones), some renewed ones, and dear ones of old I feel so fortunate to have in my life. And while perhaps not a rational response which I can explain, as I neared my house and the sensation of three year old Khalid’s utterly innocent and heartfelt hug pulsed back into my consciousness and I again felt him clinging tightly to my chest, my heart swelled and tears welled up in my eyes.
September 24, 2019