I was walking on Lakeside Drive yesterday—past Lake Chalet, a beautiful waterfront restaurant in the restored Boathouse—when I heard a loud, insistent, “CHEEP, CHEEP, CHEEP.” A row of ten-foot saplings are planted in a tree lawn next to the sidewalk. The cheeping was coming from one of the saplings.

“Bird nest!” I thought and stepped closer to the tree, peering up into the foliage. The cheeping continued but I didn’t see anything. I moved around to the other side when, to my startlement, a little bird plummeted out of the tree, landed on my left arm just below my shoulder, and clung there, cheeping like crazy.

At first, I thought it was the mother bird defending her nest. Once a mother blackbird swooped down and dug her claws in my scalp when I’d advertently walked too close to her nest on a low-hanging branch.

But I saw that this bird was a fledgling with a creamy golden breast and pale olive-green wings. Her bright birdy eye stared at me as she continued to cheep. I didn’t want her to soil my sleeve since I had another three miles to go, so I nudged her with my right hand and she flapped awkwardly to a boxwood bush on the other side of the walkway.

There, she continued to stare at me and insistently cheep. I stood with her for a moment and told her, “Your mommy isn’t coming back to feed you. You’re on your own.” Then I walked away.

I’ve had a number of once-in-a-lifetime experiences like that while walking around the lake. On the day that Alana, my pure white Turkish Angora, died peacefully at home at the age of eighteen, I encountered a Chinese-American couple with their cat on a park bench. The cat was a pure white fluffy Persian with golden eyes like Alana’s. I’ve never seen the couple and the cat before or since. On another day, a painted lady butterfly landed on my left hand and stayed there an entire five minutes. (I’m left-handed so I consider these things good luck.) On yet another, a ladybug landed on my jacket over my heart and rode all the way around the lake with me.

My little golden bird of summer reminds me how unique every moment is, no matter how ordinary or routine, and how ephemeral. It’s important to make peace with your past and plan for your future, but it’s also important to be mindful of the present. Each moment of Now is all we really have.

Today the fledgling was gone. I’ll never see her again.

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