little things

Bunny Bifocals

The best things in life are free.

The best things in life are free.

Simple things can be extraordinary to the bunny who chooses to see them.

As part of our training for the Inca Trail, we took a family hike today in advance of the changing weather tomorrow. I wasn’t all that excited about going, but I knew I wasn’t getting out of it. When hubby sets his mind to a plan for exercise, there’s no stopping him. I tried stalling by nursing my latte and spending most of my morning tucked in bed playing on my laptop. But when he came back upstairs at 10:30, fully dressed, and carrying his backpack, I knew I was doomed. I sucked it up, pulled on shorts, a t-shirt, and the hiking boots I need to break in, and made peace with the situation.

We planned a 6.5 mile hike at a nearby state park but had to regroup when we got there and were turned away because it was “full.” On a gorgeous, spring day in Colorado, this wasn’t surprising but it was disappointing. We fell to our back up and headed toward another hike approximately three miles due west of our home. We told our boys we’d do the 3-mile hike we usually do at this spot, but when we got there I decided on a trail we hadn’t taken before that would take us a bit farther.

Along the way on our new sojourn, we enjoyed colorful wildflowers, numerous birds, and the gurgling of spring run-off filling what is usually an empty creek bed. Small spiders scurried across the path underfoot. Squirrels barked their warnings at us from the trees. In one particularly breezy spot, I watched a fuzzy caterpillar alternate between creeping along under his own power and tumbling along windswept. I hoped the wind was carrying him in the direction he was trying to go. A small insect landed on Joe’s shirt. It was something akin to a box elder bug. It had a simple and perfectly symmetrical criss-cross pattern on its back in red and black. I examined it for a minute, sharing its magic with the boys before it flew away. For such a seemingly insignificant creature, he was impeccably adorned. The diversity of creatures on this planet and the spectacular ways they are put together are nothing short of miraculous.

I so often rush through life without looking around and noticing the simple things. A hike is an ideal opportunity to acknowledge the intricacies of our planet and to appreciate the wonder around us. Even when I am forced to drag my reluctant and sorry butt out of bed on a sunny, Saturday morning, I inevitably find awe in and gratitude for what I have seen outside. Being in nature reminds me that I am part of a much larger picture, no greater or lesser than any other creature, just a part of the grand scheme. I like that thought. It puts my life and my struggles into perspective. I mean, it’s a little humbling when a small, flying insect has a cooler outfit than I do.

Looking out our eyes day and in and day out, it can be an epic challenge to remember that we are not the center of the universe. When we are open to things outside ourselves, however, we can discover through the countless natural miracles around us that the things that vex us are unimportant. The only way to take ourselves less seriously is to realize how many smaller things are truly great. To get the best view, sometimes you have to take the focus off the immediate and look around you at the bigger picture.

When The American Dream Becomes The American Nightmare

Two little things I’m grateful for every day.

Just finished a long phone conversation with my youngest sister, the kind where you talk about life on the grand scale, where you are, who you’ve become, and why. I like to have conversations like that every once in a while, a little come-to-Jesus meeting with myself where I take a good hard look at my life and figure out where I’m at. My sister is a person for whom “bored” is a four-letter word. On some level, I think she’s unintentionally sought out drama in her life because she simply doesn’t know how to live with dull, humdrum, it-is-what-it-is life. But, that is the stuff life is made of. Life is not always parades and fireworks. Sometimes it’s leftovers and dirty diapers.

I think that we Americans truly mess ourselves up with an unrelenting focus on the fabled “American Dream.” We’ve come to believe we’re entitled to life in the highest order. We expect that we will be able to have it all. It’s a tall tale. You can’t have it all. There’s not room in life for it all. It’s like trying to cup running water in your hands; you can only hold so much and what you don’t have room for will fall away. Most people on this planet pass quietly through their lives, and their names don’t go down in history’s annals like DaVinci or Aristotle. Most people touch only the lives around them. That’s it. Somewhere along the line that stopped being good enough. It’s too bad.

We should have dreams and plans. We should pursue them. But, we should also accept that life is beautiful even without parades and fireworks. We’ve lost the ability to treasure the little things because we’re waiting for the next big thing. When was the last time you sat down in a forest and paused to hear the wind in the trees and to smell the pines? When was the last time you watched a ladybug in your hand and wondered at it and appreciated its small life? When was the last time you stopped thinking about what you were missing out on and honestly marveled at how much you have? I think, for most of us, it’s been far too long since we last took the opportunity to be grateful for the down times. What we’re missing in our run-around, 24/7 active lives is the peace that comes from being still and not asking anything from life, but simply existing momentarily in it without demands.

The happiest people in this world aren’t the ones who have it all. They’re the ones who are sincerely happy with what they have. When we keep looking for the next big thing, we’re missing the myriad little ones that are given to us daily…the parking spot close to the store on a snowy day, the first cup of coffee of the day that someone else pours for us, the unexpected hug. It’s only when you stop expecting big things to fulfill you that you can let the little things that have always been there fill you up.