When I see something beautiful in nature, especially when it is unexpected, I feel blessed, I really do. A frost covered leaf lying in my path, a sprig of blossom in my garden, frog spawn; I feel like I have been gifted a little treasure, just for me, and it always makes me smile.
For a brief moment my sleepy head couldn’t comprehend the flurry of activity taking place on my kitchen windowsill. I hadn’t noticed a thing as I headed out of the back door to feed the big chickens, the little chicklets and the rabbit (okay, okay I confess, I had seen and chosen to ignore last nights mountain of washing up!) It’s on my return, via the same route, that I suddenly realise there’s a butterfly flitting across the window, on the inside, my side!
‘Oh my!’ think I ‘a butterfly!’
It chooses that moment to rest awhile and I tiptoe over, not daring to breathe in case I blow this gentle creature away. I take a peek at its powdery wings, richly coloured in shades of orange, auburn and burnt umber. The ensemble is edged with a deep brown, raggedy frill and punctuated with an overall splatter of rich-brown dots and dashes. Perhaps she senses my presence because, at that moment, she snaps her wings shut but, by hiding her beauty, protecting herself, she gives away her true identity. Standing defiant, bold and beautiful she turns slightly and I glimpse a tiny white dot on the hind underwing; this is a comma butterfly and she is very welcome.
Now you may have noticed the leaflet this exquisite creature has alighted on for her photo opportunity, and, for those of you who know the Broccoli family, you may be wondering why we need a ‘care for your hamster’ pamphlet when we have cared for our hamster for two and a half years. Well I’m sorry to tell you that our beloved ‘Zero’ sadly passed away this week and the youngest Broccoli was devastated. He had just returned from a few days away adventuring with his school friends (canoeing, caving, outdoor trapeze) only to discover his pet lying cold and stiff in the spot where he is usually snuggled up warm, cosy and sound asleep. For a moment he is interested in death. He holds it in his hands, turns it over, observes and studies it. His conclusion? ‘He’s a bit flat for some reason’.
Then the tears come. Carefully placing his little friend down he turns to me, wrapps his arms around me and sobs his heart out. We sit, for some time, him crying, me holding. Then we remember the good times. We talk of the day we chose him; how he had ambled up to the glass that separated him from the world and gazed at us intently with his shiny, black eyes. The others stayed sleeping.
He brought us much joy with his antics did Zero. He was adventurous, energetic, greedy and sleepy. He often startled us by crashing into walls in his green, plastic ball; a loveable creature.
Now he rests, in a L’Occitane box’ wrapped in gold tissue paper and heavenly scented; he lies beneath the camellia that is covered in white flowers that signify adoration, perfection and loveliness; we place a sprig in the ground with him and stand, solemn and unspeaking in the half light of dusk. The earthenware pot marks his resting place.
Two days later the dust settles and we go and choose another hamster.
There’s six to choose from and a very helpful guy called Gareth, the manager of the pet store, is there to help us. He takes a few details, names, addresses, ages ( we pretend the hamster is for me, I’m over eighteen). Questions; are we going straight home? Do we have a cage? Is it in direct sunlight? The list goes on.
“We’ve had a hamster for two and a half years” I interject. “It passed away on Wednesday.”
It doesn’t stop him.
He continues telling us about wet tail, feeding, vitamin supplements; he’s on a roll. He opens each display case and gives each sleeping creature a nudge. Youngest Broccoli makes a decision. “That one, I like that one.” But he can’t have that one, it’s got a cut on its nose and Gareth tells us it’s aggressive. We enquire, tentatively, how he knows.
“It tilts it’s head to one side when I approach” he says. Well I never.
He moves on to hamster characteristics and, as he drones on, the hamster at eye level starts what must have been the performance of its life! On hind legs it moves backwards and forwards across the glass, tiny paws gripping the rail. Then, I kid you not, it starts doing ‘chins’ lifting itself up and down. We are in fits of laughter and Gareth drones on. Next this hilarious hamster shimmies up the water bottle and perches on top; we are in bits and Gareth still drones on. Mr Broccoli, bless him, is desperately trying to hold it together and appears to be giving Gareth his full attention. We are in pieces, crying with laughter. The hamster dangles upside down before dropping to the floor and giving us a wave.
“Have you decided?” Gareth suddenly interjects.
“Yes” says youngest Broccoli “that one.”
We follow his gaze, upwards. A peach-coloured fluff ball gazes back with shiny black eyes. We turn and stare at youngest Broccoli.
“That one ” he insists.
We struggled to understand. The cute black and white one had pulled out all the stops to say “Pick me! Pick me!”
“He looks too much like Zero”
We couldn’t argue with that and so the new hamster is bundled into a box by Gareth. We take him home ( the hamster not Gareth ) and name him Dumbledore. Let’s hope he brings as much magic to our lives as his predecessor.