Birds under the birdfeeders

Another grey winter day. Is it?

Yesterday a white, heavy mist descended on elevated portions of this Pioneer Valley. I wound my way carefully around a curvy road driving Aussie to Leeann. Leeann, who takes Aussie and about 8-10 other dogs on long jaunts into the forested hills, is back after being gone for a month and Aussie knew it long before we approached her house. She knew the road that takes us to the next town, up the hill, then down, and by the time we drove past the elementary school and library she was standing on the narrow ledge between driver and passenger seats, staring straight ahead, eyes transfixed and shining, tail whacking the back seat so loudly that at first I thought something was wrong with the car.

When we made the final left up the driveway she whined excitedly, backed off onto her seat and pranced back and forth from one door to the next. She had to wait a bit and whinnied piteously to see her friends, Percy the Golden and Evi the whatever taken out first and hurrying to the fenced playground behind Leeann’s house. She hadn’t seen them in almost a month.

That was yesterday. This morning we woke up to rain turning into sleet and snow, and knew there would be no walk today. Icy rain will fall and temperatures will plunge, bringing us one very cold weekend.

When it is this gray over several days, it’s easy to feel that time stands still and nothing is moving, nothing is changing. Same old white ground, same old bare branches. Of course, if you walk the terrain and see the tracks on the snow or watch the dogs scrape their paws raw trying to get at critters underneath, you get that there’s lots of life out there. But I, a human being, don’t sense those things easily.

Last night I listened to a recording of a training given for members of the Zen Peacemaker Order on a mandala approach to life. Bernie wrote about that in his Instructions to the Cook: Living a Life That Matters so I won’t go into detail here. Suffice to say that when you take that approach to life, you try to work with as many ingredients as possible, from those that are clearly visible to you and may even be your strengths, to those that you relegate to the margins or don’t even want to see, in order to cook the supreme meal, which is your life.

Introducing the topic, the teacher mentioned a scientist’s words to the effect that so much of the world is hidden from us in both space and time. They may be hidden from us in space because, well, they are in space, a long distance away. They can also be hidden from us because they’re too deep in the earth for us or our machines and computers to sense, a little like how I can’t sense what Aussie senses under the snow and ice.

Things may be way too big for us to really see, such as the giant heavenly bodies, and also way too tiny. Ants have arrived in the sink of the bathroom upstairs, but they’re so small that at first I just turned on the water without noticing they were there. Of course we have the machinery to identify ants and look under ice, but do we really know what are the tiniest pieces of matter in our universe? Science seems to be changing its mind about this every decade or so.

The same is true with time. Some things move so fast we can’t follow them, while others move so slowly we can’t follow them either. This morning I opened my eyes, looked at the grayness outside, and thought: a slow day. Yes, the birds will scurry around the feeders, an occasional truck will drive loudly down the road, but what my senses relay to me is: Slow, nothing is happening. Dogs sleeping, heat rising, everything still.

Is that true?

In daytime hours I tend not to get overly excited by news, but there are nights when impatience and anxiety creep up: What are we doing about climate change? What’s happening to species the world over? What about people leaving lands because there’s no food and no hope and trying to reach other shores? I personally bend towards wild inclusivity, and during those nights: Nothing is moving! Nothing is happening!

But it is, only often invisible to our mind and senses. Such great forces are at work all the time. Whatever small things I do now take place in an enormous space of meaningfulness–even today, when it’s another gray winter day where no one ventures out and nothing much is happening.

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