by Holly Varni
April 21, 2022

I passed an egret standing in the middle of a field the other day, looking properly out of place. It was quite a sight, considering there is no water source nearby. The little guy had to be lost or perhaps decided to take a detour and go exploring. Either way, every passerby couldn’t resist staring at the unique sighting. I’ve seen about as many egrets in my life as I’ve seen kangaroos, so it brought some excitement to the day.

The first time I saw the likeness of the bird was in a Mother Goose storybook when I was a small child. The image stayed with me because of the resemblance to Mr. Stork in the movie Dumbo. The tall, snowy-white, angular bird exudes such quiet elegance. It’s something that not only catches your eye but hypnotizes you for a moment. When you haven’t seen many in your life, it possesses a kind of unicorn quality.

I slowed my car and pulled off to the side of the road. I was worried about the little guy. I decided to designate it a male simply on the premise that he probably got into this predicament by not asking for directions. He stood as still as a statue appearing so serene, unbothered by the fact that he was alone and not in his natural environment.

I sat in my car and admired the strength of this creature with its ridiculously long legs, standing as sure-footed as an elephant. Contrasted against the scenery bursting with every shade within the color spectrum, the egret resembled a blot on the canvas that hadn’t yet been filled in. It made me smile as I watched it stare back unapologetically, taking everything in as if I were the show and not the spectator.

And it got me thinking . . . I’ve been in similar circumstances where I was the egret in the room. The latest occasion was when I sat among my grandchildren, listening as they discussed their video games and cyber worlds, which I know nothing about. In a room overflowing with youth and energy, I was the pale thing, not adding color but sitting silently and observing. It didn’t bother me that I didn’t have anything to contribute to the conversation; I enjoyed absorbing the commotion around me. I felt included simply on the premise of being a witness to it all. But that hasn’t always been the case.

How many times have we all found ourselves in situations where we felt alone and could not do anything but stand there, trying not to show our awkwardness? In those moments of stepping outside our comfort zone, by choice or chance, and the occasions when we were brave and walked purposefully into the unknown, a shift happened within us. The shift may have been so subtle that at the time we hadn’t noticed, but the outcome of every exploration is always growth. Finding our place in the world is not easy, and adventure is a requirement. Going down a new path or simply taking a sharp turn in your life direction can lead to feelings of standing alone in the middle of a field with onlookers ogling at you. But as the egret teaches me, I must stand as sure-footed as an elephant no matter how my knees wobble, because I belong wherever I go.

It doesn’t matter that I have no idea what the grandkids are talking about. I take enjoyment from observing their animated faces. It doesn’t matter that going to a party, a church, or joining a new group where I don’t know anyone fills me with dread. I will do it anyway and try not to pay attention to the initial stares.   

Wherever I find myself, that is my place because I belong and bring beauty to this canvas of life.