This morning I was up very early because of our Men’s Breakfast, and I was treated to a rare sight.
The sun was an hour away from twilighting the horizon, and the winds – our winter winds – were back, blasting everything with ice-cube breath. After pulling on a stocking cap, the dogs and I stepped out of the door to find all those leaves that had been blown to the far corners of the meadows, now filling the front walkway. Scuffling through them like a kid, they swirled about us in a wind-driven flash of animation.
The air was a quickening tonic for my old Shetland Sheepdog; he’d been slow and unresponsive to the point where I could see the near approach of Death in his diminution. In a few moments his pace had regained much of its familiar bounce, translating to his ears; their tips jiggling with his walk is always a warm and familiar source of amusement.
Coming down the lane, we began to pass through the Grove of The Cloud-sifters: these were the trees on either side of the lane that grew dense, close, and in the dark, oppressive. They easily snuffed the light from my yard light into small bright splotches. These trees tend to drip heavily as the low clouds from the ravine pass through – hence the name. During the winter, you can see some small amount of sky through their dark obscurity, but in spring and summer they form a close canopy which rapidly collects any moisture from the air. It can be raining elsewhere, but when you walk through the Grove of the Cloud-sifters, there are often giant, heavy drops that fall with a thump; and the amount of this heavy dew never seems to have any relation to the amount of precipitation outside the Grove.
Coming out of the Grove when it’s dark is almost like holding your breath a little too long and then taking a good, long, deep gulp. And this morning was even more spectacular: The winds had scoured out all the clouds, and the stars were manifest. Space was not deep black, but somehow it seemed to look a bit like God sees it: full of light, and movement, and matter. The stars themselves were discernible; even the Pleiades were visible.
The wind was even more snapping-cold out here in the open fields, and with the fetch it had, it had a real punch. After pulling The Daily Obvious from the paper-box, I kept using my elbow to ensure it stayed tucked in my front coat pocket – if it’d got loose, it would be snatched from me immediately and quickly blown out of sight.
I was poignantly more patient with my old Shetland Sheepdog as we matched his pace for the return trip back up the hill; making our way slowly back up the lane toward a warm house. His former confusion seems to be gone for the moment, and he had a good breakfast, eating slowly while my Golden Retriever looked on in fruitless hope that he’d abandon his bowl.
Gratitude in one’s life is something to be practiced; for it is in gratitude that we look around at all we have, instead of wishing in frustration for something we don’t. I am grateful for every day that I get to walk with these two companions, and grateful to return to the house that my wife and I built and the warmth of shared love we have here, together.