Lily Briscoe is getting older, the horrors of the First World War have just ended, and she is thinking of her dead friend Mrs. Ramsay in the following passage from Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse. Lily is realizing that Mrs. Ramsay had the unusual ability, like an artist creating a masterpiece, to turn ordinary moments of life into permanent memories -- in this case a simple day on the beach that turned wonderful.
"What is the meaning of life?" Lily wonders. "That was all -- a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years. The great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one."
This week's unusual snow and cold has cast a dramatic light on ordinary life right now, and Woolf's passage popped into my mind as I was returning from a snowy walk in a pink dusk. My eye was caught by the metallic glisten of mauve-purple berries on the bare stems of a beautybush in a garden I was passing. Then I noticed movement, and finally spotted the source -- a tiny bird, almost hidden by a stem, eating the berries with swift, precise snicks of its little head. I froze in place to watch; the bird kept eating. For a moment, the world was just me, the bird, the purple berries, the snow underfoot, the pink sky above.
Lily's little miracles? For me this week, "here was one."