Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Three Singular Experiences

Sat and Sun afternoons; Acadia National Park

Walking in Acadia National Park in April is usually a bracing experience. But the weather this weekend was spectacular. I would even say that Sunday was warm. This time of year I like to take it easy. carriage roads (gravel roads limited to walkers, bicyclists, and horses) my choice of fare, and a detour up Connor’s Nubble is the closest to mountain hiking I’ll make. So Saturday, Beverly and I walked the Jordan Stream loop, and Sunday, I walked the loop around Eagle Lake with a visit up Connor’s Nubble to look at the lake and surrounding mountains from an open height. As usual, breathtaking.

But things aren’t always at their usual. Take the start to Saturday’s stroll. While we were walking the carriage road, we noticed, across the brook, a wood duck walking the parallel path that also follows the stream. Now I’m not accustomed to seeing a duck hiking a woods trail. And neither am I accustomed to seeing a duck swim in a rushing brook, but this one, after fifty feet of following the trail, descended the bank and entered a shallow pool amid the rocks and rushing water. That was refreshing.

Later on, from one of the many marvelous stone bridges built in this network of carriage roads, we spotted a hawk overhead, and watched it in the sky, between branches of birch and fronds of pine. As we continued walking, I kept my eyes open for another one. In the corner of my eye, I saw a large bird, and thought ‘hawk!’ but then almost at the same time noticed that it was white, and said to Beverly, “there goes a sea gull.”

But as we looked, I exclaimed, “no!, it’s an eagle!,” and we watched it approach, its wing span growing in our eyes as it neared. Its head and tail feathers were bleached as white as snow. I am accustomed to seeing immature eagles, with brown, or at most, dark gray, head and tail feathers. The eagle has only recently returned to southern New England, so I think we only see the immature ones. But this one was a granddaddy of an eagle, the kind you see in all those wildlife pictures. Now, that was exhilarating.

Lastly, on Sunday, near the beginning of my walk, I noticed up ahead, over a stretch of road mottled with sun and shade, a large butterfly flitting back and forth, up and down, and left to right, always in that stretch of road. But as I approached I realized it was too large for a butterfly yet flew too zig-zaggingly for a bird. Nearer, I noticed an almost transparency in the wings, and then, the unmistakable head of a bat! I stopped and watched it fly back and forth in that same stretch of road for at least five minutes. Now that was extraordinary.

Maybe not. But for me, all three of these experiences were singular. And therefore remarkable. I suppose too often I take the world around me for granted, even a world as stunning as Acadia. I take its beauty for granted and know I’ll be astounded by the combination of woods and mountains, and lakes, and ocean and all the colors ranging from pink granite mountains to deep blue sea.

Every time I visit I’m amazed. But still, I’ve learned to expect it. So when the experiences of things I don’t expect, like a duck walking a woods trail, or a seagull morphing into a bald eagle, or a butterfly becoming a bat, I feel a thrill ride up my spine shocking me again into the miracle of existence. At home, when such incidents occur I am upended, sometimes overcome, maybe reborn in a way. But in such a paradise as Acadia, when such moments occur, I am simply created. Like Adam I look at the world around me and don’t even know the names for things. It’s inconceivable, but it is.

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