It floated ever so gracefully swinging like a trapeze artist from side to side. Slowly and methodically it fell from above, until eventually it lightly touched the sandy ground below. Sitting, waiting to be a part of a moment.

No one would have noticed the solitary bird preening its feathers as part of its standard daily grooming routine in its usual tree. All very predictable if you watched the bird life in this park.

The circular park, referred to by locals, but branded as Johnson Park by the council, because some Mr Johnston did something that involved a lot of money for the community,  was the place where everyone congregated each day for a number of reasons. Some came to walk with children, others to exchange dog comparisons, and others to exercise, or just to be a part of nature and manage the cabin fever of indoor life.

Due to the new isolation rules, everyone had 1 hour to either exercise, or disguise their need for other people and household escape, under the banner of exercise.

On this day, one community member Conrad, who walked and watched the birds like a hawk, marveling at their activities and beauty, decided instead to stay home and read the paper. The park could wait.

What this meant, is the one person, Conrad, who may have seen the feather fall from the tree to land in its place, the sand, saw this moment go unnoticed.

Tilly was an exercise junkie who ritualized her life with an early morning walk and run. After gaining more than a few skin coats of fat from sitting at her computer as she was now working from home, and watching Netflix with chocolate, she was determined to fight the battle of the bulge. Sprinting 100 metres at a time to increase her 28-year-old heartbeat, she would slide with puffs and huffs into a rejuvenating walk, only to repeat the cycle. This morning was to be no different as she put on her new active wear that was an online bargain obtained during the stay at home hours of enforced isolation. After hooking her ear pods on, she commenced lacing her sneakers in preparation for the daily park workout, pumped by the music enticing her to get going.

Jono and Jen, aptly named the JJ couple, had had a workout of their own that previous night as they replied to the unsettled cries of their little one. With light dawning, Jono again heard the cries of their 8-month-old, combined with the muffled mumble coming from somewhere under the doona cover he was still so comfortably under. Your turn, the voice said.

With that deal breaker  of instructional truth from his wife, as they took it turns to check the baby throughout the night, he threw back the covers to get his bub, thinking then  only of the lost sleep they had experienced overnight.

As he walked to his son’s room, and being the sensitive new age Dad, he was, he decided to let his wife have a sleep in and take his boy to the park. Perhaps a stroll would see him fall back to sleep, reducing the chance of a cranky baby in the house all day. Nappy changed, coats on, sleep still in the eyes and with bed hair hidden under hats, they left for the park.

Ping Pong, the African ring neck parrot who ruled the family at 8 Walter Street, was the first to begin the early morning chatter. A combination of words picked up along the way from the family, such as What are doing?, I love you  and Your my best friend, sounded from under the cage cover where the light was peeking through to let Ping Pong know it was time to wake everyone up. Upon hearing the bird alarm and now the dog Milo sniffing at the sliding bedroom door, Shelby arose, knowing nature demanded a degree of pet owner responsibility from her. Taking off the bird cover she was greeted with, Hello darling, which made her smile. Milo had raced around the house to meet her at the kitchen door anticipating the early morning walk at the park. He was right, as it was not long before Shelby lead in hand, was ready for the daily ritual.

Tal loved to take photos. To capture a mood and emotion in nature was his vehicle for emotional expression. Unfortunately, due to a severely broken leg during what was meant to be a leisurely mountain bike ride, his ability to take his water camera into the sea had been put on hold. Not one to let a little thing like a broken leg get in the way of his creative juices, he had decided today to venture to the park this morning. Light was an important part of his technical art need, so he planned to grab the camera case and try some experimental nature shots while the morning light offered him the effects he was after. The Park was not too far for him to now hobble as he had recently said goodbye to the moon boot. Camera over the shoulder, he locked the door and trialed the “do not be scared your leg won’t snap walk,“ advised by the physiotherapist.

Karl and Matt had the best night. Friends, fun and laughter and a little kiss from his girl in the park on the way home, saw Karl’s 21st celebration an unimaginable evening of joy. As he awoke the next morning in his family home, surrounded by posters of skate heroes, he felt a real sense of gratitude for his life. Last night he had made plans to meet Matt at the skate park, to run a few rails. On remembering this he thought, I might grab a coffee and toasty before I go. Quickly dressing as he had slept in, he texted Matt to see if he wanted a bite as well and went to grab his wallet. After rummaging through the abandoned clothes on the floor, looking in and under the bed, he started to panic. Where was his wallet? Last he remembered it was in his back pocket at the park and …. Oh no! He suddenly remembered he took it out as it was poking him in the bum as he leant back on the park table to have a goodnight babe kiss with his girlfriend. Maybe Matt picked it up he hoped, as he grabbed his car keys and board. Dialing Matt about the change of plans, he raced to the park, hoping the wallet was still there.

Conrad, who had decided to walk to the park later in the day, was now enjoying his way to sweet coffee and homemade strawberry jam thickly layered on his toast. Turning the newspaper page, he was caught by an image of a feather. Anything to do with birds generally caught Conrad’s eye of interest. Comfortable in his kitchen chair, with coffee in his hand, he propped the paper up, and began reading the article.

Simultaneously, and totally oblivious to the lives of each other, these members of the local community arrived at the park around roughly the same time. Just like pieces on a monopoly board, combined with the self-conscious rules of  social distancing, the group started to scatter along the circular path that surrounded the park.

Tilly was first off, allowing her springy legs to create a distinct gap between her and the next person. With motivating pump and run music, she galloped at an almighty pace, calling her heartbeat to spring into line. For onlookers, she was just a girl in the park running. They would never appreciate the self-love Tilly was demonstrating as she knew exercise was a great isolation fat burner, but exercise in the park, gave her so much more. After being introduced to depression in her teen years, she found exercise a charge for both her body and for her mind. Exercise for her was not running away from depression, rather running into face the illness with all that her little body could muster. It made her feel good to give this care gift to her mind. Oblivious to the little feather lying in the sand, she raced past it.

Milo, the strikingly unusually colored black and white labradoodle, always attracted the attention of park people. In fact, people everywhere. As Shelby held onto the leash restraining the enthusiastic walk faster demands of Milo, she was not sure if she should talk to the guy with the pram. Was smiling and conversations also apart of the new isolation rules she thought? Unsure at what to do, but always raised to be polite she smiled at the pram guy and quickened her step to take the lead with Milo, who was really the lead.  Shelby loved Milo with a connection she had never felt to another human being. He was her mate, pal, buddy, confidant, and huge loveable soft toy. Milo was a gift that allowed her to feel connected to this world. Right now, in this park, a love story of care and protection was being demonstrated by Milo and Shelby. She heart smiled and proudly walked on with her Milo, as the feather gently moved in the soft breeze.

Steering the pram to avoid any hard path bumps, Conrad quickened his step in an endeavor to gain a suitable distance from the other walkers, and in Tilly’s case, runners. The plan was that the motion of the pram would see his son fall into a blissful sleep. He would then return home, leave him safely strapped in the pram with his one-eyed teddy, and try and grab another hour of rest. As his son’s eyelids became heavy in response to the rocking of his pram bed, Conrad peeked over the pram, seeing that his plan was coming to fruition. A few rounds of the path park and home to a rest for all of them. As it was to turn out, his son would awake when he got home once the slumbering rocking of the pram ceased. That was going to be ok, as love for his child who stole his sleep, was unconditional. But for now, Conrad breathed in the crisp morning air, as he thought of his beautiful exhausted wife waiting for him and his son at home, as they walked past the feather in the sand.

Tal had finally made it, with his slow new recovery pace. His first thought was akin to a swear word, as the light was not what he had been anticipating. Standing still on the circular path, he took in the view, thinking he may as well shoot something with his camera now that he was here. Surveying the park, he began assessing what would be the most interesting perspective, and subject for his camera to begin the clicking. Never one to find people as interesting as nature, he viewed on the other side of the park, a deciduous tree, with leaves desperately trying to hang on before their final fall from their life source. Perfect he thought, as he again consciously prepared his leg to walk with the confidence of its partner. Tal was in his life element, as photography gave him a mind peace, where he could be still and focus on the majestic scenes of the world. Finding photography was a gift of love to himself where although the product was important in design, it was the process that charged his life. Finally arriving at his creative destination, he unhooked his backpack, removed the camera, adjusted the settings, and began to click the impressive branches, and abandoned picnic table that no one dared sit at for fear of being reported. Click went the shutter, blocking the clutter of the world, as Tal slid into mindfulness. Later these photos would reveal something Tal would never notice. A small feather tucked at the base of the tree.

Flying out of the cars Matt and Karl raced past the photo dude, scanning with their eyes the surrounds of the picnic table that was near the tree. Karl’s first thought was no wallet, followed by the emotion of disappointment. Bummer, he thought, that meant lost cash, that currently he could not use anyway, and a lost driver’s license and bankcards. As happens in those moments, his world seemed like it had come to a huge mountain. Rapidly thinking of which card, he would cancel first, Matt approached him compassionately. Sorry mate. Looks like it’s not here. Karl despondently lowered and shook his head in defeat. Did you have much in it? Queried Matt, hoping he had emptied it before they went out. Everything, replied Karl, as he turned to start walking back to the car to make the necessary cancellation phone calls.

At this moment, although they did not notice, the feather caught by a rising breeze, moved ever so slightly.

Karl ! called Matt to his mate. Karl! he repeated, just as Matt turned to look at his friend. Finally focusing on his friend, a huge smile cracked the sullen look of Karl’s 21-year-old face. Matt, with a similar grin was holding Karl’s wallet in his hand. After an excited boy like struggle huddle cuddle and lots of thanks mate statements , Matt discovered it had been caught in the leg of the table, lodged in a way the color of the wallet looked like the table wood, and so was difficult to see. If that feather could smile right then, it would have smiled, as the two best friends walked back to the car to go get their coffee, toasties and have a skate.

Conrad was so glad that the picture of the feather in the paper had caught his eye attention. Having a lifetime interest in birds, he had always thought birds were like little messengers, although he never shared this with anyone. Now here, in the print in front of him were stories exploring the spiritual messages of birds, and their feathers. According to the article, feathers had significant meanings for different cultures, such as angels being present.  But the one reference that caught his attention was this.

The feather meaning in the Bible metaphorically represents:

 care, love, and protection.

How beautiful he thought. But there was more.

A feather is a sign that signifies moving freely through life.

As he closed the paper, and leant back into his kitchen chair, he thought, how ironic that statement was during isolation, where we now cannot move freely. Mmmm he voiced to non-one but himself, as he thought, no one can control or set boundaries and rules around our hearts.  We still can care, protect and love ourselves and others, and so, we really are free.

And with that, Conrad closed the paper and went to water the plants outside.

If the feather in the park could speak of the perceptions it witnessed in Johnston’s circular Park this morning, it did witness care, love, and protection all moving freely in the lives of those present. It saw isolation not restricting the true essence of people. It saw, what we all can see, people’s hearts always moving freely in the parks of love and life.

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