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A kind friend suggests a drive in the country, knowing that I’m on an emotional journey.

We pass farms and small villages in the countryside of my early adulthood.  Here is the neighborhood where I bought my first house.  Here is where I drove my first (and only) sports car.  Here is where I met friendly police officers who gave cautions, and sometimes, speeding tickets, when they stopped that sleek blue car.

There are still orchards, horse farms, black Angus herds, and now, sheep, grazing on spring-green fields stretched across flatlands north of Toronto.

We stop to watch fishermen hoping for bass at Lake Simcoe, the edge of the water clear and bright on this sunny day.

Our conversation loops from the present to the past as the landscape changes.  We revisit old themes, talking about our families, career changes and all the stuff that happens to people when they’ve been apart a long time.

I’m warmed by the comfort of a drive in the country, and the way the view changes, as casually as the years have passed since I was last here.

My friend slows the car to point at a small head peeking above marsh grasses.  We pull over to investigate whether it’s a wild turkey or a pheasant.

On cue, the big bird struts out of the marsh to show off plumage of bronze with a tinge of copper.  He is as beautiful as any wild bird I’ve ever seen.  He runs, like a desert roadrunner, at full tilt, with his luxurious tail spreading.

Just as I’m about to say he looks like he’s careening down a runway, the pheasant lifts, then banks right in front of our parked car.  We can see all the markings clearly as he flies past, the cream of underfeathers stark against the bronze.

I haven’t seen wild pheasants since my childhood, when families of them lived at the edge of our apple orchard.  I recognize the proud strut, the seemingly too-long tail, the colors that appear to blend with the earth and forest yet dazzle in the open.

It’s such a remarkable thing that the car is filled with exclamations for awhile.

My journey here has been highly emotional, and this drive, this pheasant, this friendship, are all reminders of the pure joy of life.