Sunday, February 6, 2011
Gifts are offered, not to bring change or even to ameliorate what is, but to remind that change is happening with every breath in and every breath out.
Walking with Toby, taking a trail we avoided all summer because of denning coyotes, I looked up. My eyes searched for eagles, as they always do, but instead they found an odd looking lump of a bird resting on the branch of a dead tree. I was struck first by the beauty of the tree, perfectly triangular but stripped of everything but the cones hanging like ornaments from every branch. The bird didn't fly, even though I stood and studied him intently.
At first I thought it might be a sort of sparrow, puffed up against the cold. Right size, right color, right kind of tail. But the longer I watched, the more convinced I became it was something else. So I stepped carefully through brush until I stood right under him. It was the wide head and the way he swiveled it that made me realize I was seeing a northern pygmy-owl. The first in my experience, ever. We watched each other for as long as Toby was willing to entertain himself, then I reluctantly headed home, my heart lighter than it had been for days.
The next day's gift was a sound. One I've come to know and recognize - itself a small miracle. The chuckle and whistle of two bald eagles, in what I assume is a courtship conversation. I was in the same clearing where I'd seen the owl the day before, and the sound seemed to be circling me. I strained my eyes, stood as tall as I could, searching in vain for the telltale flash of white. I finally gave up, decided the music was enough, and continued along the trail.
Movement in the air brought my head up just in time to see the pair fly directly above me.
I almost missed the next one. Driving into my driveway, my mind already in the house and onto the next thing on my list, I registered a spark of yellow where none has been for months. One single fully bloomed forsythia blossom. A promise of abundance to come, yet a powerful and beautiful light all by itself.
I was at a friend's house yesterday. Her crocuses are blooming, her daffodils about to burst, her tulips forming tiny tepees in a clump by her door. And while I appreciated the gifts they offered, the proof that spring will come, her flowers did not move me in the same way that one bit of yellow in my own yard did.
As I do my best to embrace each new day of this very long winter, I've been reluctant to accept what feel like false comforts. The old stand-bys like summer memories and a breath of warm air. Even occasional breaks of sun have done little to ease the cold that will not be melted easily. Yet somehow a tiny owl, an eagle courtship and one small flower have the power to reach into my heart and begin the spring thaw. No reaching for them, no intention, no seeking - just openness, presence, and now a releasing gratitude.
Middle photo by Walt Shucka. Bottom photo from Google Images.