a kettle of vultures
I want to become a hiker. I’m not sure what image this conjures for you, but for many years when I imagined a hiker, I thought of big mountains, esteemed national parks, and stunning waterfalls. It just seemed like a big pipe dream for this Midwestern who resides in the middle of a cornfield.
Then I visited Yellowstone and although it was a brief visit, it somehow stole a piece of my heart. I left craving the feeling of being small in a big world, and awed by a beautiful creation. I didn’t decide in that moment to be a hiker. It was after I was home, and longing for the missing piece of my heart. A piece of me decided I couldn’t be whole unless I explored.
I don’t want to always be wanting for something. If I didn’t change my view of a hiker, it would be difficult to be content. I don’t have to plan a far away trip to become a hiker; I simply have to walk.
In the woods.
In my mind hiking is different than the daily walks I take, although some may find my walks hike-ish. I go through woods alongside of a river and the fields surround me. Hiking is starting to take on a new sense of exploring. I wanted to fall in love with my backyard, so to speak, in the same way I fell in love with Yellowstone.
I asked my friend Heidi if she wanted to explore state parks with me this year. Heidi, who hikes all over the world, responded with a quick and hearty “yes!”
Then I broke my ankle.
Heidi has helped me be patient with my recovery, and in June we found time to visit two state parks. I was slow; Heidi didn’t mind.
I had more stamina on our second hike, and we found ourselves near a river bed, with steep hills all around us. We paused. I needed to rest my ankle, and Heidi has learned to be content in the pause. We were unhurried and took in the crisp sky and heard the sound of a waterfall. It took a little looking to spot the trickle across the ravine, a simple fall of water over the textured tan rocks.
I could breathe. And I could hear myself breathe. We looked around, and there was a group of vultures flying overhead. The more we looked, the more vultures we saw. Up high in the trees and on the limestone cliffs were vultures. They were tucked in every nook and cranny. We started counting, but then it felt a little uncomfortable to be surrounded by so many vultures.
We stood still and watched.
I wondered what a group of vultures is called.
“A kettle,” Heidi supplied. And we laughed at that. Heidi is a writer, so she gets as much joy from words as I do.
It turns out that a group of vultures in flight is a kettle. The ones gathered at rest in the rocks and trees and along the shoreline are called a committee. And the ones feeding are a wake. I find this naming system humorous.
I didn’t know vultures could be intriguing. The longer we lingered, the more we saw. This is true in life, too. The longer we linger, the more we see.
And then something unexpected happened as I looked around noticing another vulture and another and another. I found beauty. The day was winding down, turning to dusk, and the vultures were coming together to rest. There was beauty in their camaraderie. There was beauty in the routine and expectation of rest.
The stream was quiet, and the small waterfall continued its constant trickle. The limestone was tall, and the trees jagged around me. The sky was a deep summer blue. The committee of vultures continued to grow.
I keep thinking about those vultures, and the way we found them by happenstance. We weren’t searching for them. We didn’t even know to expect them. Vultures are not something that I would want to actively seek. Yet, they were exactly what I needed to discover. I felt small surrounded by a big world, and awed by a beautiful creation.
There is power in lingering and learning to collect small moments. I am remembering that writing allows me to find the beauty in the ordinary moments of my life. Much like stumbling upon the vultures, as I write, I discover the unexpected beauty in an ordinary day.
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