The end of the dock

I take refuge in the truth of abiding and changing

I take refuge in the four worlds

of combining elements

of giving plants

of creatures

and two-leggeds—

All companions in awakening

~ Joan Halifax

I have been hearing about the end of the dock since my arrival in Gustavus. Like much change deemed inevitable, it seemed a distant concern, an event that may never actually come to pass.

Well, this event is now coming to pass, and it is passing with speed. Just a week or so ago, my friend and I walked out to the end of the new dock, watching and being watched by a Bald Eagle who perched atop a railing along the old dock. The eagle hesitated as we passed on our way out to Icy Passage but held its ground, yellow eyes staring, our three heads seamlessly turning as two bodies walked and a third leaned ever so slightly forward, just enough for a tail to bob up and down for balance.

The new dock is lean and sterile, solid and imposing on the landscape compared to the well-worn wood of the old dock, which sinks ever deeper into the mudflat like a tired foot in an old, beloved shoe. Pigeon Guillemot shriek from the water beneath, and gull upon gull form orderly rows atop the railings that sprout intermittently along the edge of wooden planks. My friend spoke of a love for the end of the dock, a place between two worlds. She bemoaned the end of the new dock, which felt detached from the water’s edge.

I must admit that if I could derive human emotion from human structures, this new dock seems quite austere and unimpressed with the waters of Icy Passage. It seems wholly unconcerned with the fate of Pigeon Guillemot and Bald Eagle, and I sense a distinct disinterest in the fate of the old dock, standing stalwart but tired in a watery grave. In fact, if I didn’t know any better, I would say this new dock is rather complacent and snooty. But then, it could all be a fascade to cover its deep-rooted insecurities and fear of rejection from a community who loved the old dock.

Change is a funny concept. We use this term to freely describe events in our lives with a clear start and finish. Yet, life is so very fluid that change is more a constant than anything else. It creeps in with such subtlety just beneath the surface when life feels more than tenuously static and stable, and it builds in what can seem like an interminable crescendo. One moment, life feels predictable, comfortable in habitude. The next, it seems beyond perception. This must be the moment when something shifts and the sluggish human takes notice.

An eagle sits perched atop the railing on a worn out, wooden dock. I continue walking. After a moment’s hesitation, I turn back for one last look and find an empty perch. I sense that the eyes of the eagle will continue to burn in my mind for a long time to come.

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