During one glorious period in my long career in education, teachers were responsible for procuring their own in-service classes.
I was a science teacher, so environmental education courses were approved. Many of these classes were spent hiking in the woods, sifting through the detritus on a stream bed, or mucking about in wetlands. A marked improvement, in my opinion, from sitting in an artificially lighted classroom listening to an expert drone on about classroom management or Maslow’s Hierarchy or whatever the educational topic du jour happened to be.
I once attended a class at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, a popular spot for hiking and raptor-watching, with environmental education classes at their visitor center.
In the fall in Pennsylvania, hawks migrate by following ridges that run in a North-South direction across our state. Hawk Mountain is situated at the end of the easternmost ridge, where the migrating raptors jump off to speed across the coastal plain, then set out across the Atlantic to wind up in Florida or points south.
Hawk Mountain sits in a geologic funnel of sorts, concentrating the migrating birds in impressive numbers.
The day I attended, we spent a morning in the visitor center classroom preparing lessons in environmental education. In the afternoon, we hiked to the lookout area on top of the mountain for some raptor watching.
The lookout is situated in a boulder field, so hawk watchers have an unobstructed view of the skies. Our class spread out among the rocks and settled in to watch.
I sat on the edge of the group, slightly apart from the crowd, feeling a little blue that day, worried about my mother who was in a nursing home, suffering from dementia. The nursing home wanted to move her to a different section, which I did not think would be a good fit for her.
At the time, I was working sixty-hour weeks, teaching full-time, guiding nearly 100 students with their science projects, and visiting my mother each night to help her take a shower and get ready for bed.
I hoped the afternoon of hawk watching would provide some needed relaxation and distraction.
The hawks were plentiful that bright September afternoon, but far away, mere specks in the blue sky until I found them in my binoculars. I was not feeling particularly engaged.
I lowered my binoculars to stretch my neck when a movement near my right foot caught my eye.
It was a weasel, not five feet away, poking his head up between the rocks.
My breathing slowed and I became perfectly still, frozen in the ridiculous position of rubbing my neck.
In my head, alarm bells were going off and a neon sign that said “WEASEL” in bright red letters was flashing.
I had never seen a weasel in nature before.
He slid gracefully onto a nearby rock, a graceful comma of an animal. He was studying me, looking directly into my eyes.
Weasels are fierce predators with acute senses of hearing and sight. They kill their prey by biting it at the base of the skull, breaking its neck. This slender mammal was not afraid of me at all, despite our disparity in size.
He watched me for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only five minutes, then calmly, in his own time, slipped between the rocks and disappeared.
The encounter left me stunned and elated. For five full minutes, I looked into a weasel’s eyes and saw “wild“.
It flipped a switch in my brain.
I still worried about my mom, sure, but I knew I would do whatever was necessary to advocate for her in the nursing home. It was all I could do, and it was the best I could do.
Here is the point: I went to the class hoping for an afternoon of decompression and diversion through hawk-watching. I got a different perspective on a significant problem in my life through being watched by a weasel.
It’s like the wise philosophers Keith Richards and Mick Jagger once said, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well, you just might find…You get what you need.“
How many times have I gone chasing after one coveted, golden prize, only to end up with something completely different, but exactly right?
Lots of times.
Growing up, I pictured my future perfect mate having curly blond hair and blue eyes. My actual perfect mate has (had?) black hair and brown eyes. (My husband is, um…follically challenged.)
After our two dogs died within a short time of each other, my husband and I agonized over whether to get another dog. We decided not to, then ended up with my son’s dog, who was the perfect addition to our empty nest.
You can’t always get what you want. No one does. But in not getting what we want, we learn to be resourceful and flexible.
You can’t always get what you want, but we do get to choose how we react to not getting what we want.
You can’t always get what you want, but we can decide that grace often comes in unexpected ways and how we think, feel, and live our lives is based on decisions we make every single day.
Sometimes, you just might find…you get what you need.
And sometimes what you need comes in unanticipated forms. It may look like a weasel.
For we walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7
You can find the places I link up here.