It was sub-zero that night. The icy breath of the Arctic blast pummeled our frozen landscape for two days. I was in a deep sleep when jarred awake by what I thought was an explosion, or crash; it was close enough to rattle my windows. I reached for Abbey to see if she heard the crack and thud. She slept soundly at my side. Upon my caress, still in a sleepy stupor, she rolled over on her back for a belly rub. I gently stroked her, she started to purr, rolled over again, and sank back into her feline world of sleep. I reluctantly rose from beneath my warm bed quilt to look out the window. I saw nothing; it was black as pitch at 3 o’clock in the morning. When I woke a few hours later, it was all but a dream: I was greeted by a winter wonderland. On the heels of the Arctic blast, the snowstorm arrived during the night, settling into steady, lacy falling flakes the rest of the day.
There was no place I could go until the storm passed. We already had one foot of snow on the ground by seven o’clock. I brewed my morning tea, grabbed my camera, and began taking pictures.
The Constant Cardinal
I observe my forest through the four windows in my apartment. I feel a bit proprietary about what I look out upon: I am the only one in my building whose apartment is situated so that each window provides a different view of this modest forest and its plethora of wild life that resides within, or journeys through, each day.
We see many cardinals, especially in the winter, but there is one whom I believe is the same cardinal, visiting time and again. I’ve named him Dickens. He literally poses, usually on the same two branches, long enough for me to capture an image. Moreover, Abbey becomes spellbound observing Dickens for he resides on his branches for these long periods while staring into our windows! This image was taken the day before the storm.
When the storm was at its peak, Dickens was the first of many birds who appeared for what was to become spectacular theater. He surprised me by taking up residence on a limb I had only seen him occupy once before. However, there he was perched between two trees with snow flying about, gazing into our warm, cozy world. He was announcing, I am sure: Here I am; others will follow. And they did.
Later, joined by some friends, I marveled at Dickens’s extravagant beauty: the blaze of his scarlet color and his round, robust body.
Birds of all species, sizes, and colors flocked into our forest for The Gathering. They fluttered about, leaving bursts of snow puffs while landing with flourishes and blithesome takeoffs — all antics filled with present moment rapture in the powdery snow. Here are a few I was able to capture with my camera, during their brief respites.
Creating a Zen quality to the monochromatic scenery, this is my personal favorite.
This petite being with its orange belly rested ever so briefly, taking flight within seconds.
After the frenetic Gathering, one bird lingered for a few minutes, perhaps to contemplate the beauty of the moment. I am so grateful for her serenity.
As the birds flew off to other trees and limbs out of my forest and into another, I did not expect this beauty! I thought he was an apparition: alone and serious about his task at hand.
As my camera took the image, he transformed into a streak of action: I thought it was a chimera. Thankfully, though, my camera confirmed he really was there. He never did return, while the others have for each subsequent snowstorm.
A Tree Falls in the Forest
Did you think I forgot about the loud crashing thud I spoke of at the beginning of this narrative? After the day’s storm eased into a full stop, all was still. The following morning I discovered the source of what I thought was a dream: a tree did fall in the forest.
I find this image quieting in its simplicity; inspiring too. We pass scenery such as this every day without too much thought. Yet, it speaks so eloquently to the immutable Law of the Universe — impermanence.
Change is ever present: life and death form the foundation. From that reality comes joy, sorrow, sickness, health, wealth, poverty, suffering, non-suffering, sunshine, rain, clouds, no clouds and — more. Our mind’s thoughts create our happiness, peace, or unhappiness and suffering. I personally struggle with this, but have come to more willingly accept the inevitability of change.
I was presented with a theatrical snowstorm and visits from colorful, feathered friends. What occurred in that twenty-four hour period was a meditation on impermanence while watching the birds’ fanciful flights, flirtations, arrivals, and departures. I observed my own mind as it attached to these beautiful beings and the sense of loss when they departed. I saw impermanence too in a powerful graphic: a tall tree that once stood straight and strong lying on the ground to become some new form of life or energy.
The Book of Abbey
I speak for Abbey in this Journal post as she recuperates from surgery. She is doing well, but it is a longer recovery than she or I expected. Abbey asked me to share with you what she considers (as do I) her best “tigress look” ever! Abbey will return soon to these pages.
I leave you with a quote from the Buddha:
“So watch the thought and its ways with care/ And let it spring from love born out of concern/As the shadow follows the body/As we think so we become.”
In Memory Of
This Journal entry is dedicated to the memory of my Mother who is in a world beyond this world of time and dust and forgetting.
(Thank you Dean Koontz for these lyrical words.)
I send Abbey and all beings healing light and only positive thoughts.
Blessed Be ~