They seemed to come suddenly upon happiness as if they had surprised a butterfly in the winter woods.
I have been thinking about this quote since I came upon it several days ago in the book that has been my companion through grief, Healing after Loss, by Martha Whitmore Hickman. Although I live in Southern California now, for half my life I lived in states where winter was serious business, and three of my daughters now live in areas where this long winter has seemed oppressive and endless. From last Thursday until yesterday, we had downpours, and cold, dreary weather that seemed to creep through every crack in the house and seep into my bones. I even had a fire on Sunday since I had friends coming over and wanted to welcome them with warmth. I would never have expected to see a butterfly anywhere about, and even the birds were subdued and silent, except for the crows who carried on much as usual, banging their nuts on the roof and having extended conversations across tree tops.
On Saturday, when it wasn't actually raining, I suddenly heard a huge bang and went looking to see what had caused it. When I looked out the family room French doors, I saw a small goldfinch splayed out on the doormat with one wing spread out at an awkward angle. I could see he was breathing rapidly, but I judged that with the force with which he must have flown into the window, he had probably broken something and wouldn't live long. The doormat was soaking wet, and then it started raining again. I went out with an old towel, and picked him up in it and moved him under some bushes where he had a little shelter. He barely moved and I assumed he didn't have long to live. It poured the rest of the day, and the next morning when there was a break in the rain, I went outside to check on him, and discovered he had flown away. I wondered if he had been the goldfinch who skittered up and down a long climbing rose branch that leans outside my office window where I worked at designing my new logo, that includes a colorful little wren who has all the colors of Carolina, Bewick's, purple topped, and fairy wrens and then some. So when I realized this golden yellow finch had returned to the skies, my heart lifted and soared in an unexpected burst of happiness.