It was the first Sunday of the month, communion Sunday, the Sunday that my housemates and I help lead worship. As the rare Michigan sunlight filtered through the tan stained glass windows onto the empty lime green seats of Creston CRC, my housemate Greg turned to me and said, “Want to go for a walk later?” I said yes; I’m trying this whole thing of “being a full person” and “not just thinking about my job all the time.”
After facetiming family members and a quick lunch, we were about to head out. The original plan was to walk north, gawk at the house we are trying to lease, and saunter back home. But as soon as we mentioned going for a walk, plans began to shift.
Nic, one of the house mentors, gasped. “Have you guys ever been to Huff Park? It’s beautiful! You should go!”
“Well, why don’t you guys come with us?” I said.
We piled into Greg’s car, drove up Plainfield Ave past the other Michiganders walking in the sunshine (“Look! That person’s wearing short sleeves!”), and crawled by the next potential home.
“While we are out,” Linnea, the other house mentor, ventured, “we could go see the peacocks.”
It was Sunday afternoon, the sun was out, and we had nowhere else to be. We went.
We drove until the road became a private drive, and then we turned around and parked. A man walking his golden retriever watched us cooly. Nic and Linnea pointed out the unassuming white house on the corner that was a wildlife rehab center; if you stood still long enough, you’d hear the braying of geese and chirping of various other birds.
“They hang out in the trees,” Linnea said as we began to walk down the private avenue where the peacocks usually are. “So keep your eyes peeled.”
I scanned the branches, a mix between evergreen needles and bare bones on the cusp of budding. I wasn’t quite sure how we would have missed a big bird perched above our heads, but we ambled to the end of the drive and turned up nothing. As we turned back, the man with the dog was walking down the lane towards us. A worry about getting kicked out of this private drive briefly crossed my mind.
“This is Emma; she’s friendly.” He smiled as the dog plowed straight through us to chase some other scent. He looked us over. “So are you guys here to see the peacock? Or just out enjoying the beautiful weather?” We nodded to confirm that indeed, we were here to see the peacock.
“Oh, sometimes he’s over on this porch. He’s just growing out his feathers and it’s not quite mating season, so he’s not showing off yet.” He walked a little bit further down the path and peered around a hedge surrounding the nearest house. The peacock wasn’t there, and our efforts were still unsuccessful. He continued on down the path, and we turned back to head towards the car.
“Kind of sounds like this peacock is a local legend,” Linnea remarked as we walked back to the car, defeated.
Nic stopped, peered through the fence of the wildlife refuge to oogle the (very loud) Canadian goose, and then said, “I think that’s it. I think the peacock’s right in front of that tractor wheel.”
“Come on Nic, that’s a bag,” Greg scoffed as we all looked closer. But he was right: the blue peeking outside the neon orange wheel wavered and eventually stuck its neck out. We inched closer towards the house, spotting a second bird moving around the yard (nine years ago, there were supposedly five in total).
We took pictures and left, making our way to Huff Park with its dried up dune grasses. When we made it back home, an hour long excursion, I posted a picture of the peacock on my instagram story. Within ten minutes, two former housemates messaged me: “There are peacocks in Creston?!??” They should have been more surprised about the sunshine.
Nic, who is moving to California with Linnea in July, remarked, “You know, this is the first time I’ve seen them.” And while most days I cannot think beyond the student occupying the seats in front of me and how much I am failing them daily, I got to simply smile and say, “Yeah, I’m glad we got to seek them out.”
Alex Johnson (‘19) is a virtual computer science teacher and a proud resident of the Creston neighborhood in Grand Rapids. When she isn’t reading Young Adult fiction, she’s playing board games with her housemates, listening to podcasts, scrolling on education Twitter, and preaching the gospel of intentional community to anyone who will listen.