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Mar 07

We know a rare bird when we meet one

“A rare bird on this earth,”
—Juvenal, a Roman poet and author of Satires.

Each day I receive a dictionary word of the day in my email inbox. Today, it is a Latin word “rara avis” (pronounced RAIR-uh-AY-vis), a rare or unique person or thing.

Immediately, I thought of my friend Nancy, a rare bird herself.

Not incidentally, Nancy was an avid bird watcher and that pursuit is part of what brought us together. I will explain in a bit.

I did not know her last name, not for the longest time anyway.

Still, I count her as a one-of-a kind, a rare find of a friend. We met in an exercise class in which we only use our first names. Over time we came to know one another, and eventually we got around to mentioning our last names.

You may have noticed I speak of Nancy in the past tense, but not with sadness although that would be a perfectly fine thing to do. Nancy lost a short yet valiant battle with lung cancer just weeks ago. Since she never showed a spec of melancholy, I will try not to either.

The “ladies of the three o’clock class”, as we affectionately call ourselves, loved Nancy. She was in her early 70’s I think, but one could not really tell for sure. She was spry, witty, and doggedly determined to make her weight-loss goal. If you do, then you get to be a queen for a day and are awarded a paper crown, flowers, and heaps of praise.

In the last months of her life, Nancy came to exercise class with an oxygen tank in tow and worked hard to meet her goal. Nancy did not quite make “queen” before she died, but she was close.

So, last week the ladies of the three o’clock class gathered outside on an exceptionally windy day, said our good-byes to Nancy, gave her a symbolic crown, and released balloons in her honor as our “queen for a day.”

I promised I would get back to how I met Nancy because it had a lot to do with rare birds.

The first time I noticed Nancy she was wearing a sweatshirt lauding Squaw Creek National Game Refuge and its famed Eagle Days. Since I grew up just across the road from the refuge and knew about the rare eagles there, it was a natural way to strike up a conversation. So, talk about rare birds we did, on many a day.

Last week at the balloon release in Nancy’s honor, wind currents quickly caught the balloons taking them high above us where they soon mingled with birds, all manner of birds.

Nancy would have loved seeing those birds sail with her balloons.

A fitting good-bye to a “rara avis”, rare bird herself.