"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Small Gifts

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.


Angie Ledbetter said...

Sometimes the smallest gifts have the biggest impact.

Have recently seen & enjoyed the eagle's call (even though I didn't see him), some early a.m. owls over a river just awakening to the day, and a hawk.

I wish you more.

Laura said...

such beautiful gifts you've observed sweet friend...it is amazing isn't it how in the midst of such deep inner cold, we can still open the eyes of our hearts to witness beauty. sorrow and joy rest hand in hand.

yaya said...

There are many eagles here too, but I haven't gone looking for nests yet. I'm putting it on my spring list. I did see an owl the other day and was thrilled. I've often heard them, but hadn't spotted them. What a beautiful sight..spring trying to come forth. Hopefully you will continue to find the small joys even in the cold that is still hanging on.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

So much hope in those small gifts! Beautiful!

Stacy said...

I'm glad you are getting some glimpses of spring. The only thing I'm growing at my house is icicles.

Katie Gates said...

So beautiful. Your writing is a gift to all of us who visit your blog.

Sally Wessely said...

It's the little things that really impact at times, isn't it? The photo of the single blossom is beautiful.

Bernie said...

I haven't seen any sign of Spring around here yet. Just white white snow fresh every day!

Lovely post as usual.

Anonymous said...

I had to run outside and see if we had any blooms on our Forsythia yet and guess what?!? There they were- two little blooms!

Thanx for getting me outside to see!

-M in Vancouver

Charlene N. K. said...

Another beautiful observation. Yes, there are many things around that may seem insignificant, but they are, in fact, small gifts that bring rays of sunshine to our hearts.
I also see such little things as blessings.

Linda Myers said...

I walked outside yesterday and noticed the crows flying toward their evening roost. I hadn't noticed them in a while, but I was so willing to see something active after these long weeks of darkness.

Janna Leadbetter said...

It all sounds so beautiful and magestic, Deb. I envy your patience and view of nature. Makes me want to get out and take a long, meandering walk.

As soon as it warms up, I'm going to. And I'm going to look for things with eyes and awareness like yours.

Barb said...

You say it so well, Deb - "openness, presence, and now a releasing gratitude." Thaw will happen in its own good time.

Carol E Wyer said...

As always I love my visits here. Funnily enough we too spent yesterday appreciating the beauty and bounty that nature has to offer on a walk in the local woods. Your photographs are wonderful and I too would delight in seeing a pygmy owl.
Your writing succeeds in transporting me to where you are. It's lovely!
I hope you have many more beautiful days.

Wanda..... said...

Those comforts that come to us unexpectedly are the best. I have yet to see any sign of Spring here, but am on the watch!

Terri Tiffany said...

You remind me to look around, take in my surroundings instead of rushing through my day. Your walks sound amazing!

Amber said...

"...feels like false comfort."

I know that way of keeping safe. Keeping the walls up, just peeking over the top. Yes. For those of us who keep our hearts safe in a fortress, it takes little acts of Love like these, offered gently from the Universe."...come out. Come out...it is safe."

It is safe.


Anonymous said...
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Carol............. said...

You found one of spring's "renewals". One tiny flower has opened on the branch and soon others will awaken.

It's great that you have the gift to see life's offerings...even ones that may seem insignificant to some.

Tabitha Bird said...

always love the way you connect with nature.

Beautiful gifts are all around us. :) Like here on your blog :))

Wsprsweetly Of Cottages said...

That you can express so beautifully the fact that you recognize the gifts is a gift in itself.
I'll return soon.

Anonymous said...

Ah, "Less is more" as the saying goes. Beautiful photographs Deb and how observant you are! I took some photographs on my morning dog walk in the woods the other day because it was just so beautiful out there. I spotted a few signs of Spring, like glimpses into another world that awaits us behind a veil of mist. I will listen more carefully tomorrow and endeavour to be as observant as you. :-)

Linda Hoye said...

Another lovely post, Deb, and a gentle reminder for us to slow down and pay attention to the blessings that are around every corner if we are willing to be present enough to recognize them.

Thank you!

DJan said...

Gasp! What a beautiful post, Deb. I love the pygmy owl, and the eagles. I watched the eagle nest cam on Hornby Island all summer until the beautiful Phoenix died suddenly of pneumonia. Now I am unable to continue to appreciate the parents, still heartbroken.

The crocus are coming up here in Bellingham, but forsythia, not yet.

Unknown said...

Achingly beautiful.
You write hope.

graceonline said...

Had to stop mid-post and look up owl in the Medicine Cards book by Carson and Sams. One sentence stood out: "Owl is befriending you and aiding you in seeing the total truth."

Then, in the beauty of the eagles, the miracle of your catching sight of them after all, and the lone Forsythia bud, the buoyant shift in your prose--what hope! Dare I imagine, a hint of joy? Is it possible after so much grief?

And this: "No reaching for them, no intention, no seeking - just openness, presence, and now a releasing gratitude."

Once again, you teach us all. I am deeply grateful that you open your heart and your experience to us during this time.