Hilton Head, South Carolina

Taking a much-needed break from my grandfather's funeral, I drove to Hilton Head for some sightseeing. I didn't know much about the island – only its reputation for golf courses and wealthy tourists.

When I reached "downtown" Hilton Head, I found only strip malls and beachfront hotels. A light rain washed over the sidewalks, and I aimlessly ducked from one awning to the next. Tourists window-shopped; bicyclists hid beneath trees.

At first I thought I'd picked the wrong day, given the grisly weather. But as I passed yet another nail salon and souvenir shop, I decided I'd picked the wrong island.

Between the rows of shops, I found a small pond. And there, next to the boardwalk, stood a puffy, humpbacked stork. Pedestrians floated past the bird, grimacing at its curious round eyes, then moved on. But I lingered for a moment to keep the stork company. The only place to go was my hotel, and after that the funeral home. No hurry, I thought. So we stood there, on the pond's muddy bank, not sure where to go next, as the drizzle misted all around.

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What a peaceful little vignette to start a Sunday morning.

In my experience, encounters like this seem to happen when a loved one has recently departed. Especially with birds.

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