Two Forest Bar(re)ds and an Urban Angel

Forest Bard 1

“I have something for you,” said the man in the floppy hat, coming up to me in the park while I was taking pictures of ruby-crowned kinglets. I’d seen him earlier but walked along a different path so I could concentrate on photography. But now here he was again, green raincoat damp from the spring “mizzle,” as we call it here in Seattle.

“Here you go,” he said, handing me a folded piece of paper. I unfolded it and read:

Nature always is there
if we but take the time
to pay attention to its rhythm.
Our tension decreases as we do.
/          /          /
Nature is the handmaiden
to the Spirit, we find God in nature.

His gift was delightful. I introduced myself and learned his name was Chris. It turns out he’s actually pretty well-known in our forest, offering his poems to passersby in the park. It occurred to me that my students might really enjoy the poem, so with Chris’s permission I took his photo to share along with his creativity.

Chris with poem (shared with permission)

My students loved the poem, and one of them said, “We should send him a thank-you note!” So we passed around a piece of paper for short messages, and I carried it with me when I walked in the forest, never knowing when I might encounter Chris again.

“I have something for you,” I told him when I saw him a few days later, and handed him the students’ note.

Chris with thank-you note from students (shared with permission)

I think he got a bit teary-eyed reading their warm response, and it probably didn’t hurt that an audience of his friends was watching all this appreciation.

A few days later I again ran into Chris.

“I have something for you,” he said, “but it’s in my car.” I needed to get back home to grade papers, so I hesitated. But when he continued, “It’s actually for your students,” I came to my senses. On our walk to the car, I learned that he’s Dublin-born Irish and not only a poet, but a true philosopher, speaking with depth and passion about life’s lasting lessons.

Out of the trunk of his car he pulled another handwritten note, this time written directly to my students, with a short story and poem composed especially for them. He wrote of kindness and the spreading ripples of gifts, and how it is in giving that we truly receive. The following day, during our last class together, I gave each of my students a copy of the message of the Forest Bard as a keepsake.

Forest Barred 2

Each time I walk in my park, I check out the overhanging pines where our resident Barred Owls hang out. I’d been getting kind of worried because I’d only seen one of the two owls regularly since we had an unexpected snow a few weeks ago. I’d even looked around on the ground after the snow melted, hoping not to find a deceased, thawing owl.

Since I’d had to detour to the parking lot for Chris to pass along his gift to my students, I ended up taking a different-than-usual route back home, which took me past the owl nest box put up three years ago by our local parks crew.

As always, I took out my binoculars to check the nest box, even though it had been unoccupied except for the occasional squirrel for almost a year. And I was astonished to see a gray arch – the top of a Barred Owl’s head!

Barred Owl nest box - tip of head visible

Barred Owl in nest box

After an unsuccessful nesting season last year, our owls are trying again. Spring is finally seeping through the wet gray forest.

Urban angel

Several years ago, I lived in a valley in another part of my city, about a half-hour walk from work. My walk took me up a substantial hill and through a variety of neighborhoods with a range of reputations.

It was an unusually clear winter morning. As I crested the hill near my workplace, thinking about the day ahead, a man in dirty clothes was hanging out on the steps of an old apartment building, leaning on a broom. I tried not to avoid him too obviously, but he called out to me, words I couldn’t make out, and showed me a gap-toothed grin. Reluctantly, I paused and asked him what he’d said. He mumbled something again.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I still didn’t catch that.”

“The mountains. Ain’t the mountains pretty this morning?”

This urban angel with subtle shimmering wings had woken me up not only to the snowy Olympic Mountains glowing through the skyscrapers on the western horizon. He’d opened my eyes to my own blindness.

^ ^ ^

Bards, barreds, urban angels. Amazing what you can learn when you’re willing to see what’s in front of you.

Sunrise on Olympic Mountains

[Chris’s story and photos are shared with his permission.]

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4 responses to “Two Forest Bar(re)ds and an Urban Angel

  1. What a great story, Trileigh! I love the anecdote about the Forest Bard, especially 🙂 It’s great to read about your adventures and I need to make it to Lincoln Park next time I’m in Seattle!

  2. Such a charming vignette, Trileigh! I didn’t know you wrote–and so beautifully.

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