Small Victories

On a bleak November afternoon, my long-time friend David and I were talking about small victories. “I put a new shelf into the cupboard where I keep my tea, and now everything is sorted and accessible,” he said. “Isn’t it surprising what a difference finishing such a simple thing can make. Every time I go into that cupboard it makes me happy.”

A bigger recent triumph for David had been reducing the number of gallons of water the backwash on his water treatment system required, mostly by being curious and persevering. First he contacted the company and, when that didn’t work, he followed up with his plumber. They contrived a clever way to observe his fluctuating well water, changed settings, and a worrying need was fixed.

My achievement, I told him, was different but just as pleasing. At present, my bird feeders are located in front of my house, where I get hours of happiness watching the blue jays, chickadees, nuthatches, three kinds of woodpeckers (hairy, downie and red-bellied) and goldfinches at a fat feeder and one filled with sunflower seeds. Having them nearby gives me hours of delight. However, when freezing rain happens, as it does more often than in past winters, it’s sometimes hard for me to get out safely to replenish the stores. Also, I like to sit by the fire in my living room at the back of my house, where the big windows look out over the valley. When I am in this room I miss watching my birds.

Long ago my son Morgan had suggested that I could try attaching a clear acrylic feeder with suction cups to one of my windows, to see birds up very close. That I dismissed though, because I couldn’t figure out how to replenish it without going outdoors and using a stepladder. On this particular day though, I suddenly realized that if I removed the screen for the winter and attached one of these feeders, then all I would have to do would be to slip the window open and replenish the seed. It would even be possible to offer fresh water on wintry days, something I long had wanted to do. It was ridiculous how pleased this small idea made me, I told David.

We went on to talk about the pleasure of finding a new place to store a few mismatched things made us, or spending an hour tidying our offices, mundane things which made us surprisingly happy.

But I want to end with a different kind of victory, something salvaged from procrastination, which I believe will give me joy all winter. In my wish to deny that it was the end of the season, I kept postponing bringing in two special rex begonias, new plants for me, which had been a high point outside in my planters last summer. Then, on the late afternoon of the last day before a sharp frost was predicted, I scrabbled in the cold soil and dug the two out and stuffed them into the only available pots. You know, I did not deserve to have these begonias survive, and for more than a month, it did not look likely that they would. In fact, the more striking of the two was down to its last leaf by the time in reached the safety of my bedroom windowsill.

Inevitably at this point the neglected pair became specially precious to me. Every day I fretted over them, “Grow! Grow!” But for a month, shocked, they only clung to life, until I had pretty much given up hope. But then came a day this week when the one plant threw up a small stock of sweet pink blossoms, and out of the crown of the one-leafed one, tendrils of new growth appeared.

Small with Great Love

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