Christmas Cousin Party

December 25, 2018


At eleven months, it was Amelia’s first time to circulate at our yearly gathering of extended family. This party features a host of folks from their eighties down to infancy.  We’re a numerous and fruitful bunch; although practically new, Amelia is no longer the youngest!  Be that as it may, most of the cousins were meeting her for the first time.  Such a joy for me to move around cousin Lisa and Bill’s place with a granddaughter perched upon my hip.  Somehow, it felt like we had both arrived.


Party clothes:  Upon Amelia’s feet, ruby slippers.  They looked quite fetching, but she was all too eager to shed them.


Speaking of slippers:  Amelia had gone away to another part of the party, upon the hip of one of her parents, and I was standing in the back yard, reflecting, and getting my wind back.  I looked up to the power line over the back fence and what should be looking down but a Snowy Egret, that small delicate entity nearly eradicated in the 19th century for its plumes.  There she stood, plumes in the breeze, Grace on slender black legs, bright yellow feet gripping the wire, wondering I suppose at all the human chattering below.  And I wondered at her—oh, those golden slippers!—and wished her a nice Christmas crawfish.


Her visit to the party calls to mind an essay from my book.


Snowy Egret


Those that seek Me early shall find Me.

Riches and honor are with Me;

yea, durable riches and righteousness.


Proverbs 8:17-18


Florida, Gulf side, 6:15 a.m.  Desire drew me early to the white-sugar sands, for a stab at riches.  To my consternation, a man was already headed in from the beach, his plastic bag drooping from the weight.  Destination:  the shell-washing station. What treasure he beat me to can only be imagined. My eyes narrowed. We didn’t speak.


Still, I found a few pretty specimens of my own.  My favorite was a rose-speckled scallop, with four golden sunbeams.


At 5:45 the next morning, aflame with determination, I was on the beach.


I had beat the man to the sugar sand.


Alas, it was still “slap dark”.  Too dark to see the shells.


So I strolled the white rim of the sea, enjoying the sound of the surf.


Suddenly I noticed a Presence walking beside me, just matching my measured pace.  She was a snowy egret, Egretta thula, engaged in a predawn search of her own.


(“She rises also while it is still night, and gives food to her household ….”)


How lovely she was, how small and slender, how white against the dark sea.  How elegant her lacy plumes, her long black legs, her suave yellow shoes.  Bright feet, stepping along in the shallows.  Neck tightly coiled, prepared to strike.  A dart, a shake of sea spray as she swallowed.


The sky lightened; two gazes met.


At my unveiled proximity, she took to the air.    Forty-one-inch span, so they say.  But who can measure snow on the wing?    Thirteen ounces, so they say.  But so much more, to me.  I was the richer, for rising early.


And I did get some cool shells.