By Sara Pippus

We walked, wandering down the winding smooth path through the shrubs and pines all bunched together in the riverside park. The muddy edges of the path gave way to patches of brown grasses and dogwood bush. It was that time when spring was just around the corner. You can smell spring for a long while before it arrives, and on this particularly warm March day, the air was full of promise.

The river followed us along, still frozen on the surface, giving no indication that it agreed with the rest of the spring things. Strange how a river has so many faces, sometimes hard and cold and other times smooth and glassy.

I had been hoping for open water. Still water. But it’s the wrong season for still water. Under all that ice, the river is already running at a swift pace. We weren’t. Running that it is. We were meandering. The air was warm with just a breath of cool from the breeze as it seemed to lick the river ice and blow past us.

We rounded a bend before the long stone bridge and the brush fell away in a clearing revealing a bench. Looking up behind that bench was a massive tree. This one made us gasp at its size. This old one had been giving shade and protection to this part of the park for a very long time. It seemed out of place towering over the rest of the Saskatchewan shrub trees.

Here we stood in awe and as we did, a tiny white and black blur bounced past on the breeze. A black-capped chickadee landed just feet from us safe in the arms of a willow bush. He tipped his head as if tipping his hat. I had heard that they are a curious bird so I raised my hand like a sturdy branch. I encouraged my family to do the same. Of course, we felt goofy standing there with our arms outstretched. Spring air makes people do strange things all the time. The wee one cocked his head to the side and in two quick flaps had grasped my finger and was staring me right in the eyes. I stilled and tried hard not to squeal in delight. Then off he went to explore my husband’s outstretched arm. He explored both of the strong hands and then off he went again, just like he had arrived, in a blur.

All of us were flushed with joy at the little visitor and looked at each other in wonder. Next time, we would need to come armed with a little seed to share to show our thanks. Thanks for changing the day: for bringing hope and reminding us of the wonder. We needed that just now. We had come to walk, to get away, to get fresh air, to breathe. It’s become a bit of a custom to find an outdoor spot when life gets too crowded and too heavy. And here among the trees and wild things, we find Him again and again.

This time, gifting us with this little visitor on the same day my husband said goodbye to his dad. Here, where the sun warms us and coaxes out freckles and the air changes all of the strangeness of the day. The pain isn’t gone, but it’s changed somehow. This little ripple. Just a little nudge to say “I Am Here”. One little thing can change so much.

In the days that followed this encounter, the thoughts of small ripples changing big things are haunting me. This idea of one small kindness after another having greater gains than dreaming about changing the whole world all at once. This little black- capped visitor has given me much to think about.

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