We were hiking to a waterfall. Not a long or difficult hike – really just a walk up a long road and through marshy woods on a winding boardwalk. Perfect for a mellow afternoon.
As we were passing the park ranger offices, a departing employee came out. He wore the official National Park Service ranger hat and most of what looked like the standard-issue uniform, but he had on an odd brown sweater. It had a large oval of brown felt sewn to the stomach, and black material hanging down along the bottom seam of the arms, attaching to the sides.
He greeted us cheerily, excitedly told us that the recent rain had made the waterfall stronger than he’d ever seen it, and wished us well. Then he flapped his wings and walked away.
Well. What do you do when a grown man flaps his wings goodbye at you?
You call him right back, that’s what you do, and find out what’s going on.
It turns out it was his homemade costume for a children’s lecture he’d just given on bats. And as he explained it to us, I realized that I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone so palpably content. He radiated peaceful happiness. This was a man who put on his ranger hat every morning and knew exactly where he belonged in the world. In his case, it was working at a waterfall and wearing a sweater with wings and a felt tummy in order to teach kids about animals.
I don’t know about being wealthy or famous or any of those big things, but I do know this: what I would like very much to achieve in life is that sort of sure, comfortable belonging.
And yet, I think most of the things I do every day – most of the things most people do – are not trying to find that. They’re more about checking things off a never-ending list, or trying to be faster or better than someone else.
I think I need to figure out how to worry less about doing things for the “rat race” and more about becoming more like the “bat man.”