A moment to ponder at the Niagara

 

The 2chicks are returning here with perhaps a few tricks up their sleeves. The following is a short story, set along the banks of the Niagara River, on Grand Island, New York, in Beaver Island State Park. If you are coming to the area, certainly google it for more information. Please, read on and enjoy!

Written by Sherrie Robins

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Evening fell over the Niagara.
There was a hush and an echo, that reverberated as sunlight on the whimpering waves.

A heron was standing in the marsh along river’s edge, aware of my presence. Silhouetted as a statue, she was unwilling to move a muscle…until I got too close. That was when she spread her wings wide and with a leap and an arc, soared toward the setting sun.

 

In the distance, a dog’s bark preempted the quiet, perking my ears up, bringing me to attention.

I was rather irritated by now. My ethereal moment, my commune with nature had been interrupted, and I can’t say that I liked it.

I was sorry my bird (how did I think she was mine?) had flown off. I was sorry a pet was in the vicinity…and a man.

I turned my head back towards the water, and the sun, the glow and the calm and tried to reemerge.
A warm evening breeze caressed my face, in a seeming attempt to calm. The least I could do was respond. Drawing a deep breath, I listened. There was a far off bird call. Perhaps MY heron. Maybe she would come back, and this dog and his man would disappear.
The now cooling sand was fresh between my toes and the nip of a mosquito pricked my neck.

It hadn’t been a particularly good day. Nor week…nor year. This place was my calm. My restoration. It filled me up when I was running low.

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The end of the season was my favorite; the kids were back in school and their parents hovered with them, over homework. Family tourism was over and the only tourists still around were not interested in a river beach, they were here for the big bang Niagara Falls had to offer.

Several boats were still moored, but mostly empty, waiting for weekend attention. No, weeknights in September belonged to me.

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The docks were inviting. I loved stepping out on the wooden planks. They were rough and springy with the dank smell of tall wooden posts, long immersed in the underwater world of mud and clay.

My mind wandered. It slithered as a water snake along the golden shimmer, touching on my troubles and problems, seemingly without solution; problems that I had allowed to seep into my soul and had sunk deep and dark into my mud and clay.

I shook my head, where was that Heron, anyway. I could use the distraction of her call…

Instead I heard a bark. And it was close. And a man…his dog…and interference. The hair on the back of my neck ruffled in irritation. This was MY sanctuary.

He came out onto the dock. The dog was young and full of bounce and friendly. I didn’t want bounce. I most certainly did NOT want friendly. But my Mother had conditioned me to “nice”.

“Hello” he said. “Hello” she bounced and licked, jumping up in my space. She landed squarely on my bare feet with her sharp toenails, drawing a neat red line from ankle to toes.

“Ouch”! I yelled. I was going to “nice” but now I wasn’t. I didn’t care. My problems. My sanctuary. My space, My foot.

“I am SO sorry” he said. He was irritatingly sincere.

I sat down on the dock and put my feet in the water. “That’s okay. But do you think you could manage to control your dog”? She was jumping with those toenails, precariously close. I continued to not like her. Or him.

But he spoke up “Again, I’m very sorry. Is there anything I can do for your foot? My car is in the lot and I have a first aid kit”…

“That’s okay. I’ll be fine”.

“I’m really trying to manage her. I’m not usually the one to take her for a walk. I do apologize”.

“Nice” insisted on speaking up. Thanks Mom. “Oh…you got stuck with the job”? It was the best I could do.

“Well…in a manner of speaking”.

My foot was throbbing, but my Mother continued…”Oh”?

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He hesitated.

I noticed him for the first time: middle aged, graying hair, glasses, trim. He looked pleasant enough, for a man whose dog had just punctured my foot.

“I didn’t mean to pry”…

“It’s just this is my first time walking my Wife’s dog here. Leona is a rescue, and she was just beginning to get her under control…when…” His face hinted of pain and began to contort, before he turned away.

Oh no…what had I gotten myself into?

“I’m so sorry, I, uh…”

“No” he sniffled. “It’s my fault”.

“I’m really sorry, apparently there is more to this and I didn’t mean to”… I trailed off, overwhelmed with awkward, and just a little sympathy.

He straightened up and stood tall. “Look. I don’t know you and I am truly sorry I interrupted your reverie here. But you have no reason to feel bad. I’m the one who came here and interrupted your alone time. I’m the one that made you feel uncomfortable. I am most sorry my dog hurt your foot. And mostly, I’m sorry for this awkward  moment. But I just lost my wife tonight. She had been sick for a long time and we knew it was coming. I have family at home, so I’ll be okay, but Leona and I needed to get out. I just felt I needed to tell you.
Now, won’t you please excuse us? Please have a good evening”… He turned abruptly, sniffing a little, clearing his throat.

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They walked a little further on, down the main dock and out onto one of the several protruding finger piers. Leona was sniffing around, satisfied with the varied smells, but he stood still, staring in the direction of the sun setting over the water…as unmoving as My heron had been.

He hadn’t even given me time to respond. I couldn’t tell him I was sorry.

I didn’t bother to move as I was frankly, thunderstruck. What could I do? If I moved I might interrupt his reverie. No. I could give him that much.

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After a few moments, Leona pulled at the leash and the man came back to himself. I saw him wiping his cheek as he turned. They walked back down the main dock and off into the darkening horizon.

The sun was nearly down and I was shivering as I pulled my feet out of the wet. I wasn’t sure where I left my shoes, and that mosquito had returned with his companions.

But I was experiencing a paradigm shift.  No. It was time for me to leave his dock, his beach, his park.

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I would let the sun sink low, I would return the heron to herself, I would give the man his sanctuary… maybe even realize my Mother had a point.

It was time to pull the supports from their entombment and give my head a shake. Most problems were only that. Problems. I would save my sorrow and self-pity for the bigger things of life.

 

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