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The Winter Winds Bring Me Home

The cold winds of winter have arrived. When I stepped out side my front door, I was at once blasted awake by the duality of sharp crystallized air and the blindingly brilliant sunlight. My husband and I decided to go for a short walk and it was clear we would need to dress in layers as the temperatures would vary widely from open fields to protected hollows. Out of the depths of the hall closet, I retrieved last year's winter paraphernalia of scarves, hats, and gloves. Adorned with all these accessories, I decided to leave my binoculars behind; after all the migrations were over and these were only backyard woods.

Hunched and wrapped tightly in protection from the cold, I was soon calmed by the familiar path. The trees had lost their flamboyant leaves which highlighted our last excursion here. This time I was awed by their gracefully solid bone structure, flexing and bending in the wind. My mind was quieted as I noticed that nature's sounds were also sparser - bursts of wind, creaking trunks and branches, the occasional scurrying of squirrels, even the stream sang a slower tune.

On our return loop, we were unexpectedly greeted by a sudden flurry of twitter and chatter, finding ourselves surrounded by over twenty bluebirds, their colors standing out brilliantly in the muted winter woods. We never realized that they wintered here. My husband checked this out on his iPhone bird app, and we were delighted to learn that we had happened upon a "hermitage of bluebirds." What a surprise on the year's first cold winter's day; I felt like Snow White in the middle of a Disney forest.

We returned home happy and invigorated, ready to enjoy some hot soup and homebody activities. To extend the experience, I looked up the definition for hermitage and found "a secluded sanctuary or private retreat." Perfect! The unexpected pleasure of the bluebirds turned a routine walk into a personal retreat.

I love to first take note of the little surprises that cross my path and then explore the wisdom-lessons they might provide. This mini-retreat reminded me that the duality in every thing makes each more wonderful! The passing of the busy migration season made the gift of the wintering bluebirds more delightful, the silence of the woods enhanced each sound, the winter winds made coming home more comforting.

The lesson for me is to remember to savor the opposites. The early darkness makes the holiday lights guiding my way home more cheerful. After a festive gathering of family and friends, I need to find time to be quiet and reflective. After the hustle and bustle of preparations, I need to allow things to unfold and take on a life of their own. At a deeper level, I must embrace that sadness springs from love, that worry can foster a deepening faith, that scarcity can be overcome by gratitude and loneliness by reaching out.

The hermitage of bluebirds also brought to mind writings of a modern day monk, Brother Wayne Teasdale, whose words reminded me of why these little experiences can be so meaningful:

"Every one of us is a mystic. We may or may not realize it, we may not even like it. But whether we know it or not, whether we accept it or not, mystical experience is always there, inviting us on a journey of ultimate discovery. We have been given the gift of life in this perplexing world to become who we ultimately are: creatures of boundless love, caring, compassion, and wisdom. Existence is a summons to the eternal journey of the sage - the sage we all are, if only we could see."