Winter brings a mixture of icy stones, fresh air, star filled nights and cuddly moments in front of the fire – all the elements unite. At first glance the earth seems to be in retreat but when the skies open the expansiveness becomes visible as clouds are reflected in the puddles as I get my feet wet. Getting your feet wet is often about having a go, a first try. When winter arrives and I get my first seasonal feet wetting, I wonder what new journey this step is preparing me for. The pilgrim’s job is to keep walking and paying attention to the path, and an invitational puddle deserves attention.
Puddles form because there is a hollow or depression in the surface that allows the water to gather – they capture the offering of the sky and hold that space until the sun evaporates the water, or the earth soaks it up or a person stomps and splashes it around – and sometimes a combination of all those factors.
Puddles are small. Each puddle has its own unique shape. There is a puddle in front of my house, it fills up each day of winter rain. It keeps its shape and everyday offers the invitation: step over or step in. Some days I get myself wet intentionally and other days by accident. When I step into the puddle, I notice my shoe hasn’t been able to resist this element and my foot gets wet. My whole body shudders from the combined effects of the cold, icy and muddy water. Factoring in the puddle, I take extra precautions next time we meet so to avoid this wintry contamination. The puddle has taken me for a fool and when I laugh there is a ripple on the surface smiling back at me.
We all have childhood memories of playing in puddles and the pleasure of jumping and hearing the squelch of mud and splashing our friends dancing around after a shower or even in the pouring rain. Simple pleasures gifted from the sky. I remember a time when the back door of our home housed, in military precision, a battalion of industrial yellow Wellington boots. The laughter of those children (now adults) echoes, as I land my foot in today’s puddle and today’s steps add to the pilgrimage.