The Family of Everything
by Mary Kunz

Driving home from Morro Bay last night,
I see the sun low in the sky above the sand dunes
where I have followed the tracks of deer
and have found their bones.

The road borders the estuary.
It curves past Windy Cove
where a small beach stretches at low tide
between a hill and a rocky outcropping,
home to a heron rookery and cormorant nests.

I have run along that beach
at sunrise, years past,
before injury and time ended that for me,
kayaked there more often than I can count.
Years too since I shared in that special grace.

I pass eucalyptus trees along the road now;
even in the car I catch their pungent scent.
I have gathered white egret feathers
at their base, plucked them from
among long dried leaves, two feet deep.

Right about there I stop noticing my surroundings,
as familiar to me as my own hand.
I think of a conversation I had heard the day before.
The man had said, speaking about his life’s work,
that he could not have done it without his family.
I have no family, I thought,
I am alone in the world.
And I was awash in loneliness

when a red shouldered hawk
flew right in front of me,
woke me,
something in its mouth,
wings fully extended,
fully alight in the lowering sun.

The road curves past the marina
and more eucalyptus,
and there the vista opens
to the full expanse of the estuary
and the salt marshes where I have ventured
in knee high waders
have seen crabs skitter sideways
in channels emptied by low tide.

I come to the place where the road
and the creek meet,
and just then a snowy white egret thrusts himself into the air,
follows the water,
and paces with me until the road and creek separate
and the willows close in.

The poet David Whyte tells me to put down the weight
of my aloneness and to join in the conversation.
Everything, he says,
everything is waiting for me.

The wild geese, says Mary Oliver, announce my place
in the family of things.

And I believe them all, the hawk and the egret,
the poets and the geese,

and I claim my place in the family of everything.