A friend once told me that he loved playing hockey when he was a kid. “But I was always so mad at myself after a game because I didn’t fully appreciate just how much fun I was having while I was on the ice.” I guess he was a precocious kid because he was already telling himself a version of what we hear so often as adults: Be present. Be mindful. Be in the moment.
That’s easier said than done. But this week, thanks to a good friend, I spent several hours in the beautiful moment.
We hadn’t seen each other for almost a year when Jay and I decided to have a picnic lunch. We met at a park that was a large green space with a grassy slope that rolled gently toward a lake. There, nestled beneath a row of mature trees were two weathered-wood picnic tables that looked out onto the lake. There was no one else around so we picked the table with the best view and settled in.
The day was hot, hazy and humid and as we sat in the shade, we welcomed the light breeze that swept gently through the trees. As it did, the leaves shimmered and danced in the dappled sunlight and made a soothing “shusshshshsh” sound.
“I love that sound,” Jay said.
“Me too! If you listen carefully, it sounds a lot like the ocean,” I replied.
So, we did. We paid attention to the wind as it gently rose and rustled the leaves, echoing the sound of a wave cresting, breaking and receding. With our eyes closed, the tropical heat and a bit of imagination, for a few seconds we were transported to the ocean.
Just then a bird chose to break into its sweet song. “I think that’s a cardinal,” said Jay.
I shook my head. “No, I’m not sure what bird it is, but it’s not a cardinal. So again, we listened and though we couldn’t say what bird it was, we agreed that it wasn’t a cardinal.
Then she took out the picnic lunch she had made and refused to let me contribute to. We talked – and kept talking long after the sandwiches, veggies and chips were gone. When the hard benches began to take their toll on our backs, we got up to explore our surroundings.
We walked close to the marshland where bulrushes, reeds and cattails poked their heads up. We took photos of trees, flowers and whatever else caught our fancy. And that’s the ONLY reason we used our phones. We didn’t constantly check them, we didn’t send or receive texts or calls and we certainly didn’t rush to post our pics on social media so everyone would know what we were up to. We just captured the beauty that caught our eye in the moment as a way of keeping it alive forever.
We were surprised when we checked the time to find that several hours had gone by. Slowly and reluctantly, we packed up our belongings and made our way back to the cars and to reality.
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
– Allen Saunders