Trying to turn grief into hope
Note from columnist: This “Common Ground” column, written on Jan. 24, 1996, was lightly edited and is dedicated to the memory of Duana Rachéle Kight (1971-2006).When Duana was only 6 we hiked the whole San Mateo Mountain Range in central New Mexico.We began our journey from the north end. A friend dropped us off along with our packs. Mine felt like a hundred pounds but probably weighed only 70.If I looked at a map I could tell you the name of the mountain we started from, but right now it doesn’t matter.We were about to say goodbye to our friend when something caught my daughter’s eye.It was a small bird caught in a metal stock tank, too wet to fly but still alive.If the agency wildlife biologist and the rancher had worked together this wouldn’t have happened.You simply construct little wooden gang planks hinged to the edge of the tank. The other end floats at the level of the water inside.Any trapped creature walks the gang plank, not to their death, but to their salvation.I didn’t think this little wet bird had much of a chance. There was no telling how long it had been trapped, how much life it had left.But there are times a parent can kill hope in a child by merely doing nothing.So I did what I had to do. Rather than picking up the bird, I asked Duana, “Be gentle and go slowly. Sit her up on the lip of the tank and …” before I could finish she worked her magic.With the instinct of cunning childhood intent she lifted the little bird out of its grave, gently placing her on the edge of the tank.All three of us – the friend had not left yet – backed away to give the wild bird room.I spend a great deal of time outdoors. Some really good biologists have tried to educate me. But I have yet to learn the songs, much less the names, of the birds that sing them.It didn’t matter what kind of bird it was, the music we heard was unbelievable.The song celebrated life. It was a song of freedom. At least that’s the way I felt, still do.It finished the last notes. For all I know that chorus may have been sung to humans for the first time, perhaps the last time, too.Then it flew away.All three of us looked at each other. No one said a word.I think about that bird on cold winter days. The smile on my 6-year-old’s face is still etched in my heart.It’s a memory that will stay with me until I die. The rest of the trip is there, too, four days and 40 miles worth of time together.Sharing hope that things can happen that don’t seem humanly possible is the stuff miracles are made of.If I could remember that more often, maybe grief will turn to hope … again.With more than 25 years of experience in federal land management agencies, Bill Kight, of Glenwood Springs, shares his stories with readers every other week.
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