It is her voice I hear first, "I'm going to be passing you on your left," she calls out cheerily from behind me on the path where Ellie and I are walking. And she does, pass me on the left, riding her bike, her body clad from head to toe in a snow suit. It is February. And this is Calgary at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. And while it's not cooold, it is brisk, a balmy 0 degrees Celsius. Add the wind on a bike and definitely snow suit biking weather.
I call out a thank you and Ellie and I continue on our way. We meet her again at the point where the asphalt veers left to meander down the hill to the river below and Ellie and I are veering right to the unbeaten path through the woods skirting the top of the ridge. She is standing looking out at the vista.
It is beautiful.
Crystal clear blue sky.
Snow covered mountains in the distance. Dark fir tree clad hillsides sweeping off into the west. There is no sign of 'city', of population expansion at this point of the trail. Just broad vistas of forest and rolling hills climbing into the Rockies.
We chat for a moment and Ellie and I continue on our path to explore the wonders of the day.
I am feeling happy. Content. A productive morning of writing, a few phone calls to prospective clients and now, freedom to explore the outdoors with my pooch. Does life get any better?
We spend some quality time walking and sitting on the hard cold earth, looking out at the view. The silver strip of frozen river a ribbon of possibility snaking through the valley bottom below.
Ellie doesn't have much time for sitting and meditating in the sun. She wants to get going, get exploring, get in motion.
I stall her with a couple of treats and entreaties to 'be still', lie down. It works for awhile but finally, off we go for more wanderings. And on our way back to the car, there is the woman of the bicycle, standing once again, or possibly still, at the edge of the cliff overlooking the view.
She sees us and calls out, "How wonderful to see you again!" And proceeds to tell me about what she's going to do when she gets home -- stay in her snow suit, sit on the chair in her front yard and enjoy the sunshine.
Except, she's worried about what the neighbours will think. And her husband. He's always telling her she can't just sit around and do nothing. "Do you think that's true?" she asks, before racing forward, into more dialogue. "Maybe you can help me," she says. "My son just moved out and the room he had is now empty. I want to use it for something. It's such a wonderful space but I don't want to turn it into a bedroom again, definitely not. My husband says I should make it into a yoga studio but I don't want a yoga studio at home and I don't know, I have this dresser in the basement. It's beautiful old wood with this gorgeous mirror and..." she pauses momentarily for a breath. "Do you think I should move it up there?"
"Do you want to?" I ask, still not sure why a complete stranger is asking me for decorating advice.
"Well, I love it and it seems such a shame to hide it away and I have all these other pieces of art and antiques." Her eyes snap wide open, her mouth forms a tiny 'O'. "I could turn the room into my art gallery. A place where I go and sit and admire all my beautiful things."
And she climbs onto her bicycle in preparation of riding off. "Oh thank! You've helped me so much. Now I can go sit in the sun and plan how I'm going to do this and.. oh Thank you!" And she was off to sit in the afternoon sun.
Ellie and I stood, bemused expressions on both our faces, watching her ride away. Ellie was somewhat dis-chuffed. The woman had barely acknowledged her presence. What's with that? And I was smiling. What a delightfully insane encounter.
I turned from watching her retreating figure back to admire the view. And that's when I saw it. A patch of untrammeled snow, the only patch around, just at the edge of the ridge where the earth falls away to the river valley below.
I knew what I had to do.
I bid Ellie 'Stay' (who am I kidding?) and walked over to the edge of unmarked snow. I turned around, faced away from the ridge and carefully lay my body down and made a snow angel.
It was divine.
I smiled up at the cerulean sky soaring above me. I laughed out loud.
And wonders of wonders, Ellie stayed still until I stood and walked away, leaving my angel lying in the snow behind me. A reminder that angels are on our path always. Sometimes, they come riding up on a bike, all wrapped up in a brown and red snowsuit.
And always, they come bearing gifts of laughter and joy.
When I got home, I gathered my journal and pen and a blanket. I moved the wrought iron table and chair into the sun on the deck and spent an hour basking in the glow of a February afternoon, enjoying the moment, exactly the way it was meant to be. Exactly the way it was.