Winter’s Lesson

On snowflakes and oceans…

They say each snowflake is unique, a perfect fractal never repeated ever again.

How can we know?  

My wife and I have a lovely water feature in our portico, small waterfalls and pools, ceaseless flow that soothes and restores.

I wasn’t surprised to see the bird when I stepped outside, but I was concerned to see how she was resting, with both wings fully outstretched, lying on the soft, green plants under the window box opposite the water.

Sheltered. Out of overhead view. And so then I understood.

She did not appear to be in pain. She did not seem frightened. She seemed somewhere familiar to her, within herself, eyes open but seeing something not visible to me.

When I returned from my walk, she had died, eyes closed, wings still fully outstretched, as if she were soaring without effort.

In a good year, 40 feet of snow can fall on Colorado’s mountains.

As the spring thaw begins, so do billions and billions of seemingly inconsequential individual driplets. Who can know which drip becomes a trickle, which trickle starts rivulets?

And so the Colorado River begins.

For millions of years it has carried life itself from the highest Rockies, ever downwards to the sea.

Is this the beginning, or the ending, this ceaseless cycle?

We work. We live, never certain of anything, not even our part in this play, much less that of anyone — or anything — else.

But each matters all the more because of this uncertainty, and so how we respond matters too.

Our world has never been so connected.

We sit next to each other at home, in the office, gazing at our individual screens, cocooned with our ear buds and headphones and texts, sharing space and nothing else.

Shut off from real intimacy, impervious to the struggle all around us that is real, and consequential, and ever easier to ignore.

How can we know the effect of one snow flake?

How can we feel the tiniest of ebbs in the energy flow that is life when even one heart stops beating?

How can the suffering of even one of our own go unnoticed simply because we can’t be bothered to look up?

How can we blame, or credit, any one?

There should be, in each life, a familiar shelter, out of the storms too strong to weather, a place of soothing quiet, so that those we love, and yes, perhaps one or two whom we do not even know, can close their eyes, rest their wings and once again, soar.