Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

A visit from a mysterious animal

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published October 6, 2020

In the pitch-dark morning, I noticed my cat acting strangely. He was running between the window and the screen door and peering anxiously outside. It was clear something was going on, but when I looked out, I didn’t see anything.

Moments later, though, I glimpsed a large, dark-furred creature darting swiftly by the porch in the direction of the backyard.

I recalled the week before when I’d been in the backyard and spotted animal pawprints in the mud. They were so large that at first, I thought maybe some child had slipped into the yard to play a practical joke, but the gate has a padlock, so this theory seemed highly implausible.

When I showed friends photos of the pawprints from the mystery creature—whom I decided to nickname Big Boy—they came up with many possibilities. Someone said a coyote, although the pawprints were much too big. Someone said a bear, but I don’t think they reside in the Chelsea Heights neighborhood of Decatur.

I wasn’t afraid of the sudden appearance of Big Boy, because over the years, my home has been visited by many motley creatures. The window birdfeeder regularly attracts bluebirds, wrens and cardinals—as well as two doves who don’t realize how big they are.

And it was hard not to laugh the day I looked outside and saw a hefty hawk taking a dip in the bird bath! Moments later, I marveled at the green flash of a hummingbird, who might be surprised to know the hawk is a relative.

I see all these creatures as God’s “gifts of the day,” just like in seaside restaurants we have the “catch of the day.”

There are mysteries all around us, but sometimes we overlook them, because we’re so immersed in everyday life. Earlier this year, I found a tomato plant hidden among the weeds in my backyard. I potted it, put it in the sun and enjoyed tomatoes for weeks.

Years ago, my late husband and I were sitting on the back deck at dusk. Suddenly, we were startled by the sight of owls flying into the yard. The sound of their wings was like a delicate breeze, but their eyes blazed in the darkness.

On my morning walks, the butterflies make dazzling appearances as they tiptoe on the heads of flowers, while dragonflies dart about merrily. A rabbit skedaddles into the underbrush and a chipmunk scoots down a hole in the ground.

Ever since Big Boy made his appearance, he has wheedled his way into my dreams. Sometimes he is a scary, large bear and sometimes he is a cuddly, albeit gigantic, cat. I see him as another reminder that so much of life remains mysterious.

Who can understand what draws one heart to another in that magical moment called falling in love? Who can understand the moment in the womb when, like a strike of lightning, a new life begins?

Every so often God sends us something to shake us out of our “everydayness,” our tightly woven routines, our usual expectations. We perk up then, we behold the world with fresh curiosity, we see life through new lenses.

There’s a lovely line in the Book of Revelation: “Behold, I make all things new.” This is what God does for us every day, whether it’s a vividly painted sunrise or the birth of a rose. And because God seems to enjoy surprising us, maybe he sometimes adds an extra flourish by leaving mysterious pawprints in the yard.

Artwork (“De Profundis” oil painting) by Jef Murray. Lorraine’s email address is lorrainevmurray