The morning was damp, grey and, after a lot of caged animal pacing, I took our garden lawnmower out under a threatening sky and attempted to mow the bumpy, wet and stony quarter acre lawn at the back of our hillside home. Feeling more than a little tired, helpless, useless, empty, ridiculous, impossible, stupid, I pushed onwards and upwards. But the little mower kept getting clogged by wet grass gathering inside the machine. I had to keep stopping and switching it off and turning it on its side and pulling great clumps of wet grass from jamming the blade. Of course it will, you damn fool. But I wouldn’t give up.
Eventually, I managed to level a path two meters wide, sixty meters long to a point good for sitting and looking out over the garden fence. It started to rain. I started back towards the house and stopped. I was not going to give in. Why should I be held hostage by inclement weather. Why should I have to go indoors just because I have no coat. So I stood my ground. I let the rain get me in my T Shirt, jogging pants and wellies. I wanted to get soaked. I registered the metaphorical cleansing – the washing away of human folly. I registered that I rarely feel anything without noting it.
And I noted that this mowing challenge, this standing in a light shower was the extent of my defiance and I laughed at myself seeing myself as Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams and I knew I was ridiculous but I did it anyway. It was pathetic. But it was something.
Before I grew overwhelmingly embarrassed by all this, the rain stopped. I stood on the edge of the garden and looked out over the row upon row of Victorian houses to those other houses miles away over the river, a mirror of our own. And the sky had cleared. And the sun shone down. And I know it seems like a plot device in a tenth rate novel but at that moment a Robin appeared. And it sailed down out of the sky, spiralling on a thought directly towards and over me. And it disappeared behind the giant oak tree at the back of next doors garden.
And I knew. I knew that, out of my sight, it would circle around to face the bow—wave of breath lifting off the face of the hedgerow. So I waited and watched. And sure enough this mistress of flight reappeared. Flew back over the oak and settled on a branch, perfectly still, suspended in solid air to her as the soil and rock beneath my feet. Ten seconds or more she held that place before tilting and gliding to vanish below me.
I freed the blade from another grass plug, took one more look out over the distant houses, and rolled the mower and myself back home towards the house, well aware of the fact that the interpretation of signs, created by ourselves to comfort our desires, was the capricious human foible that had driven me out in the first place.
Then it hit me. I knew a breakthrough was needed, though a second later I would had missed this happenstance; or a confirmation of chance. Maybe all this is just a by-product of an over fertile imagination? Either way, as I looked up I could find no sign of red breasted creature who had left an everlasting impression on me. I have been annointed with many a blessing in the past, but this time it was different, this time I was saved. Saved by bird poop.
And I registered the lie and accepted it anyway – the lie that all I’d experienced that morning in our quarter acre garden was a sign. A sign that there was a valid reason to carry on. It wasn’t a given sign. I knew that. I knew it was a sign that I had made through my interpretation of these events, driven by my desire for some comfort. And it worked. I felt a bit better. I felt that though I have little to offer it is still worth offering.