Friday was my birthday. Several weeks earlier I made plans to go by myself to the Olympic Peninsula. Part of my motivation was to spend some time alone in nature. To reflect and meditate on what I wanted to create in the coming year.
On a clear day when I am driving the hills of Seattle near my home I can see the Olympic Mountains. Over the past couple of years I have felt a pull to go to the Olympic Peninsula, especially to the northern part of the coast where it is rocky and wild.
However, that is not a day drive, as it takes four hours or more to get there, and requires planning for where I would stay overnight. With my birthday coming up it seemed like the perfect excuse for this getaway.
I’ll admit, too, that the other part of my motivation was that I didn’t want to end up alone and with no plans on my birthday weekend. It was something of preemptive strike to make plans for that weekend so that I was choosing to be alone rather than ending up alone.
On Friday I had no special birthday plans. I did a Skype call with a friend from church that was business-related. I met a new friend for tea, and she bought my tea and pastry, which was nice and unexpected. I saw a couple of clients and went for my monthly acupuncture appointment.
I stopped for dinner at my favorite Thai restaurant on my way home from the acupuncturist. Nothing special and I was okay with that.
When I got home it was still early in the evening, and I suddenly felt very lonely and sad. It was my birthday, and no one had invited me to do anything to celebrate. Of course the flip side of that is that I had not let my friends know that I wanted to do something. But either way, I felt very sad and sorry for myself.
I was even beginning to feel like I didn’t want to leave on my weekend trip the next morning. I had a vague sense of loss or grief at leaving home for the weekend. I worried about my cats, which of course are fine on their own overnight.
I did what I frequently do when I begin to feel sad, lonely or grief-stricken. I distracted myself by playing games on the computer and reading. I hoped I would not be feeling this way all weekend.
When I awoke Saturday morning I did, indeed, feel better. I had been thinking about the route I would take to the hotel. Where would I like to go, what would I like to see and do on the way?
After treating myself to breakfast out, I decided to go to a park at the south end of Hood Canal: Penrose State Park. My family had gone there many times when I was a child. Sometimes we would go for the day and go clam digging. When we got home my dad would make chowder with the clams. Other times we would camp overnight, hike in the woods near the water, and dig caves in the sandy bank at the water’s edge.
I hadn’t been to Penrose for about five years, and prior to that had not been since I was an adolescent. This stop was a nostalgic one for me.
I arrived mid-morning. There had been a little rain while I was having breakfast, but now it was dry, with some broken clouds. I had brought a raincoat and boots because the weather can be unpredictable, but I was thankful that I would not need them – at least not right then.
The tide was about halfway out, and the spit of land where we walked to dig clams was fully exposed. I decided to take a walk out on this spit. The path along the top of the spit was somewhat rocky, and required a certain amount of attention to my feet and where I was stepping so that I didn’t turn my ankle.
As I walked this spit of land that stuck out into the water, I would occasionally look around at the view: land close in on both sides, still and quiet water, a seagull or crow here and there.
I noticed streams of water spurting up from the ground in the wet areas on either side of the pathway. I remember that seeing these fountains was how we knew there was a clam, and would start digging to find it. It was a fun and warm memory of time with my dad.
After ten minutes or so, I was about halfway down the length of the spit. I was continuing my slow walk, looking around me occasionally, but also focused on where I was stepping. To my left I suddenly heard the beat of wings and looked up to see a bald eagle taking off from the ground not more than ten feet away from me!
He flew back to the forested land at the edge of the water and perched on the top of an evergreen tree. From where I was standing I could only see him because of his white head. I was amazed (and a little disappointed) that I had come so close to this eagle, and yet had not noticed him there.
I know that eagles symbolize Spirit. I realized that this experience was a message that Spirit is always with me, whether I notice it or not. Spirit watches over me even when it is hidden in the top of a tree and I can’t see it. It is still there, just waiting to be noticed.
I was (and am) so grateful for this experience, this reminder. I had been feeling sad and lonely, unloved and uncared for, yet Spirit was with me all the time, loving me and caring for me. All I had to do was pay attention.