Few weeks ago, I was in La Rochelle, to see some relatives. I was very glad to be able to see the sun and the sea. I was not expecting anything more, the landscapes there are beautiful and it seemed to be far enough.

The best thing there, in my opinion, is to appreciate the sunsets on the cliffs. One evening, we decided to head to the “Pointe de Saint Clément” which is located at the north of the town, near a village called Esnandes.

After parking the car and walking down to the Bay, we realized that it was low tide and we could easily walk down the paths that are usually submerged in the water. As the light was diminishing, we could observe the wet sand changing color and the bubbles getting to its surface. It reminded me that this was the sign of the life we don’t see, the sign of all the littles worms and shellfishes that are down there, releasing air.

After a while of walking and enjoying the cool air and the view, we saw a woman walking in our direction, with a large vest, some rain boots and what seemed to be a very big camera.

She went on our path and stopped halfway to install what, I guessed, was a tripod. I supposed that she was getting ready to take some pictures of the sun going down and of the incredible warm orange lights we had this time. But it seemed that she was heading in a complete other direction, turning her back to the sunset.

We decided to come nearer, to see what she was doing and this is when I realized this was not a camera but a telescope. She was not there for the sunset nor the landscapes, she was there to observe the birds. It is true that there were a lot of them, standing on the sand, far away from us. It was difficult to spot them as some long grass was hiding them.

Indeed, the Pointe de Saint Clément is well known to be an ornithological site where birds come at the end of the day to rest, to nest and to eat, especially when the tides are low.

I believe that my first reaction was quite condescending and I feel still a bit ashamed of it. I didn’t have any interest in observing birds and I thought this was like an old-person hobby. After talking a bit with her to understand why she had chosen this spot and not another one, she invited me to have a look through the telescope.

It was mind blowing. I could see so many details. By the behaviors of those little feathery animals, I could see families, young fluffy ones jumping and playing with each other. I could see the old ones searching for food, getting their beak into the sand to pinch some worms, when some others where even finding fishes.

This woman knew the names of all those species. She started to explain how we could define differences between all of them, she told be many things about their natural habitat, their habits and their lives. At this point, those birds were not just animals, they were living creatures which acted like humans.

I never felt so sensitive toward such little animals. I didn’t even know that I could feel this way and that I could change my point of view in a glance of an eye. This woman did not just teach me a couple of things about wild life, she made me discover a part of me I did not imagine existed. After an hour, I completely understood why she was taking time to observe them at the end of each day.

She ignited a light in me that changed my mind about those animals. She helped me get real feelings toward nature and its inhabitants, feelings that I cannot forget and that won’t leave me for the rest of my life.

Sometimes, life offers you the opportunity to shift your mind. You can take it or leave it, but in the end, new experiences are just gifts to open up to the world.

This night, I just wanted to go for a walk along the cliffs to appreciate the view of the sun plunging into the ocean. Instead, I did not see any sunset, but I had a look into my soul and discovered way better.

I don’t know who this woman was, I don’t even recall her name, but she changed my life for sure. Sometimes, you only need one encounter with a stranger to make a giant step forward in your life.

Dear reader, take care.

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