A Strange Amount of Courage

Cascade Head South Trail is a fairy tale staircase of exposed roots climbing through a cavern of giant spruce trees and berry thickets into the meadows that overlook the ocean.

The forest light grows dim as I walk back down the hill. Swainson’s Thrushes are filling the wood with their mystic arpeggios and sometimes it sounds like there is one right next to the trail. I stop and try to spot some in the tall leafy brush to no avail. They are good at hiding, being still, throwing their voices.

Around a bend I startle one into noisy wing beats and watch it fly deeper into the brush. Then one flies up the trail and lands on a tree in plain sight. I spot it in my binoculars long enough to see the brown spots across its breast but it takes off before I can focus.

The light continues to fade so I forget about spotting birds and listen instead to the spiraling songs coming from every direction, the water-drop calls traded back and forth.

Once, a coworker asked me if I knew which species of bird made a particular song. Before he even began his description, I knew that he must be talking about a Swainson’s Thrush because of the wonder in his eyes. He had clearly been touched by something shimmery that transcended the roughness of the world.

Down the trail a ways I hear a Varied Thrush sing, the eerie harmonic of its simple one note song drifting through the woods. If my coworker had been asking about a Varied Thrush, his eyes would have held awe and a little apprehension after encountering the seedy underworld this bird had given him a glimpse of by parting his thoughts like a heavy velvet curtain.

I don’t want to leave. But a few days from now at home in a seemingly unrelated conversation I will learn something about harmonics while talking to a friend.

Men are so attractive when they share their expertise, I say explaining my latest crush.

Humans are attractive when they are in their purpose, my friend replies. He’s right, intellectual prowess is not what I find attractive about this guy, its passion. He spent his life immersed in the things he loves and now seems deeply imbued with them.

I consider my own passions and decide it is not a thing to double check or assess rationally in terms of what I can give the world. We have a right to make our lives matter to ourselves, even if they matter to no one else.

It seems like a small thing. But for some of us it requires a strange amount of courage to choose—to believe our passion will be a touching harmonic, even if it only floats through the far woods, occasionally touching a dusk traveler who slips out of their thoughts to love the seedy, unplanned life they so elegantly inhabit.

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