I sip my morning tea and peer through the glazed garden door. A rat lies exposed on the top ridge of the lawn, its fur sleek, its body rigid, sodden from the rain. I take note to pop out and bury it in a bit, I can’t quite bring myself to head outside just yet. It’s the second one I have found in the garden in 3 weeks. I wonder if it’s the warmth of my compost that has attracted them, or whether Mo has been out hunting out of winter boredom.
I discovered the last one by surprise. The bright cadmium yellow leaves of the little acer had suddenly turned brown, and in the space of 3 days had all fallen to the floor. They formed a thick blanket over the earth, beneath the now acrobatic splay of branches. The tree looked like a naked mannequin with its arms held in the air, its flapper dress fluttered all the way to the floor.
I went out to clear the fall. The leaves were small, light and feathery and filled my hands softly as I scooped them up and dropped them into my wooden hoop-handled tray. As I worked my way around the tree, I spread my fingers wide and curled them under, lifting up a particularly large handful, when I got a little shock as I revealed an unexpected sight. Startled, I recoiled, froze, and then leant forward. I had exposed a foot, a narrow, angular, oriental-looking, miniature foot.
The body it was attached to was still shrouded beneath the cover of leaves, allowing the extremity to draw the attention quietly and offer itself up for admiration. The long toes rested closely together, neatly formed with tiny brown elongated claws, the diminutive bone structure evident and exquisite in its detail. I sat hunched on my haunches and observed it for a while in stillness, feeling the same wonder as when ladybirds landed on my hands as a child. I felt my eyes grow wide like when I spotted a stick insect in a tub full of branches, and a tickle of pleasure coursed up from my toes like when I would peer into friends’ doll’s houses, or play with my model ponies and their tiny bridles and saddles, complete with minuscule buckles, that drew me in without the need for any story. Observing the tiny, the detail, the refined craftmanship was adventure in itself.
A sense of wonder comes naturally to me, it is part of my make-up, a trait I seem to have been born with. I have reflected however that this isn’t the case for everybody. So, I feel lucky. To me, it is like travelling without needing to go anywhere. It is diving into a moment and being absorbed by the beauty of something, by delight and mystery, a sense of the extraordinary, which I perceive such plenty of in life. I find it in the colourful markings of a bird’s plumage, the finesse of a flower’s petals, the taste of a ripe pear, the precision of a rat’s feet. It is in the constellation of the stars, the way a snowflake melts into water, the structure of lichen. In French the word for wonder is ‘émerveillement’, I love the sound of it, like a lighting up of the marvellous, so right for the full, uplifted feeling it gives me.
Sometimes, busy to-do lists fog my vision, noisy conversation dilutes my taste buds, trains of thought cause static in my hearing and I seem to fall asleep, but then a moment comes along, I find a tiny foot attached to a small body hidden under feathery leaves, and I am fully awake again.