I was recently staying at a place where the forest is integral to the whole experience. It’s the kind of place that mostly goes under the radar. You use this computer to find the phone number to confirm the date, because you’ve lost the piece of paper they gave you last year for when you are coming back next year- to celebrate your wedding anniversary, a birthday, a writing break, the only time they had available -so you came. And now, all these years later… at the exact same time of year, you still come and see many of the same people. Year after year for 26 years in a row…minus this last time frame – this black hole in everyone’s sense of “lived time”. I thought it was because I was grieving that time seems a little weird. But the more people I talk to, the more I realize that everyone feels this way about March 11, 2020 when our province shut down because of Covid… along with the rest of the world- until recently- defined differently by where you live, what your circumstances are and in some cases how close to the science of counting you wish to remain.
So this time when we had the conversations with people, it had been a two year gap since our last visit- our last how is your family, how are your girls…
That is not what I intended to tell you when I sat down to write. The thing that has been on my mind is about checking in on little wonders.
After two years, I saw people do what I was doing too– going back to the places in the forest, along the ocean, in the sunny meadow of an early Spring morning: to see the chocolate lilies, the camus, that little tiny blue flower that no one knows the name of, but they know exactly what you mean when you describe it’s brilliant blue nestled close to the vibrant chartreuse-coloured moss, glistening with the morning dew. These people who lead busy lives doing important work for our fellow citizens in areas of law, healthcare and policy for children, and for all of us really. It’s important work because it is upholding the tenets of our democracy or leading a positive change for our society. And here they are individually going around to see all the little indicators of the minute changes in the season. Is Spring late as we have heard it is…as it would seem to be by the fact the camus are all standing tall and tight- non of their fabulous blue to deep purple showing yet?
I’m struck by the importance of this checking in. We seem to be looking for something- truth about the world? Or perhaps we are looking for reassurance. When we understand exactly where we are at in the world’s conflicts and the theoretical framework of a warming planet– that is all Truth- big T truth, that is for sure. But those are the macro understandings of our lives. This checking in could not be more micro- more immediate, more tangible.
And when we find the flower we are looking for, among the shooting stars and long green grasses we don’t know the names of… it seems to bring a little peace. It seems to bring a moment of ‘ Oh good, there you are’- you’re here, I’m here. I can hear the waves lap against the shore a little louder, a little faster than I had noticed before, it must be that that tug boat did finally pass by.
I’ve been thinking about what this kind of grounding, literally, to ground means to a person’s life. How this confirmation of observation, this reverence of the smallest “things” can help. In an intense working life, sometimes seeing the worst of people, of people on the worst day of their life, or the frustration of a bureaucracy used to being static and seemingly allergic to being in any way dynamic—that there are things that are essentially true. You can observe them either present or absent- or ready to bloom but still present. But they are there. And in the intervening year, usually, since you have seen them last, they have survived storms, drought, extreme heat, deer, bugs, people, rabbits, invasive plants.
They are here. If you get low enough to the ground, in the still air, they share their scent. It is subtle, but it is oh-so-sweet. Further confirmation that it is indeed there. For a fact. No one can argue it’s existence. It’s value. Because it has done what it was meant to do, it has survived and is now thriving. A true celebration on this anniversary of sorts- only in your mind- because it is the anniversary of you seeing it, confirming it exists.
If you catch a glance of yourself in the mirror of a still, shallow puddle in the sandstone as you look around to see what else there is to see. You catch a glance of you- framed by the ends of your curls, as your hair hangs in front of your face. You. You have made it another year too! You have weathered your own storms, your own challenges in a world where those challenges are often not in your sphere of control. You are healthy, you can walk the winding paths to the place you remember – you can still do that. Walking and remembering are only mundane, take-for-granted things until you can’t do them. We take most things for granted unless they are taken away. But perhaps we have seen that happen to others and it becomes a lesson for us. In the pain of witnessing someone else’s struggle and loss, it is the one good thing that can come of it- for the witness, it can be the gift. To realize this gift requires the intelligence to take that on board and learn to appreciate that which we still have.
I’m curious if you have a seasonal “ritual” or thing that you do to check in… Do you have a time in the year that you go to ground and stay a little still as a way of balancing an otherwise busy life? Do you check in on little wonders?