The sun rose, casting a rose-gold glow across a frozen world. I watched the daily miracle soften the sky, grateful that my home faces east that every day brings a reminder of renwa, and every dawn reminds me that now is a new beginning I can embrace if I choose. The sun also rose on a small black dog. The morning was bitterly cold and, as always, I stood at the door and watched as Ani made her first foray into the garden. You could see her disappointment in every line of her body. There was not the snowfall she had hoped for… no drifts in which to bounce, no snowflakes to chase… barely enough play with. And, judging from the look she gave me, it was quite obvious who she was holding responsible for the situation.
I was none too pleased myself. If I am going to freeze, then I’d appreciate the snow to go with it…beauty eases many hardships. And a midweek snow day, with impassable roads, would have been nice. Instead, any significant snowfall will likely choose the most inconvenient moment. The roads were icy, the rush hour drivers impatient and the ten minute drive to work took an hour. My phone had inexplicably died a death, so I couldn’t let the boss know I was going to be late. The boss, unable to get hold of me at all, had gone past blame at my lack of communication and had reverted to son-mode. Worried that I might be in trouble somewhere, he was on the point of calling the cavalry when I finally arrived.
There was a little more snow in his garden than out in the village. Being so cold, the snow was dry and had fallen in tiny snowballs rather than the soft blanket to which we are accustomed. I made his morning tea while he rescued my phone from its unexpected demise then I went out to the garden. After the previous day’s panic with the pond, the fish were my first concern.
The little waterfall had almost completely frozen over, so that had to be thawed. One half of the pond had frozen, though the airline had kept a breathing hole open and the larger waterfall kept one end of the pond ice-free. So the ice was my next job, all the while checking to make sure all the fish were present this morning. No-one seemed to be missing, and no frozen corpses decorated the deck, thank goodness, but there were an awful lot of footprints in the snow. I wondered if the culprit of yesterday’s piscine murder had returned.
There were cat-prints all around the pond, pretty much confirming my suspicions. I had blamed cats for the dead fish the day before… they seemed the most likely culprits. A black feral cat slunk out from beneath the bridge, followed a few minutes later by Boots, the resident black huntress who likes chasing fish… I thought that the mystery was solved.
I continued with my tasks in the garden, smiling at the blackbird prints that showed its morning movements from the feeder to the stream where the waterfall tumbles across slate, picking up oxygen for the fish. You could see where, in spite of sub-zero temperatures, he had jumped in for his morning ablutions.
I noticed what looked like a single, barely visible bird-print at the edge of the snow… but if it was a bird-print, it was a big one. It was not until I was filling the feeders that I realised what it was… the trail of huge bird-prints wandering down to the drive were unmistakable, the heron had been visiting, looking for breakfast. Given the clarity of the prints in the snow, he must have left not long before I arrived.
So, maybe it wasn’t the cats after all… perhaps, like Ani, I had been casting blame in the wrong direction? Just because the pond is almost heron-proof when it is full, does not mean it is heron-proof when the level has dropped as far as it had the day before. I was really glad I had managed to fill the pond, or who knows who we would have lost as breakfast? There were only cat prints around the sunken pond, though, so he cannot have gained access any way except via the slope exposed by the drop in the water level the day before.
Life-lessons were reinforced this morning. Never to make assumptions of guilt or cast blame… because I might just be wrong. And to look for the positives in any situation, no matter how unpleasant. Thawing the hosepipe had been an awful job… so was clearing the ice from its surface. But filling the pond had covered the heron’s access, while the ice had ‘put a lid’ on the fish, protecting them for whoever had designs on them as breakfast. And, as an added bonus, the cold has made the water crystal clear, so even through several feet of the stuff, the fish are easy to watch.
A couple of pretty ordinary hours can hold many lessons. It doesn’t take much, just a little attention, for life to offer little gifts. Things that seem too mundane to matter have a cumulative effect, adding their mite to the store of knowledge that can, if we take note, grow into wisdom. It is easy to put the spiritual journey in a compartment, a box that can be opened and visited at will… then closed again while we get on with ‘real life’. The spiritual journey is real life… it is happening all the time, whether we notice or not. All we have to do is open ourselves to the gifts of the ordinary.