Standing in the Moment

On Sunday afternoon our family hiked in Nichol’s Arboretum in Ann Arbor, a place I frequented during John’s hospitalization. The Arboretum had been a safe haven, a respite from the sounds and smells of the unit. Bundled against the 5 degree windchill, we strolled our favorite path along the Huron River. Amazingly, we saw swans for the very first time in two years. Eight white swans, floating like a grand procession down the river. Despite swimming upstream, they glided effortlessly, diving for morsels under the surface. We braced against the wind as they gracefully sailed along, like ballet dancers dressed in white.

We watched for a few minutes, until the cold demanded we move on. Less than an hour later, our eyes watering from the wind, we searched the river. But the swans were gone. We decided the bevy must have docked up river, preparing and sheltering for the night.

In my mind, I assumed the swans would still be there on the return, but the wondrous moment was over; fleeting, fluid, and gone. These days I am more aware of how quickly something changes, especially in nature – the swans disappearing, the shadows on the river, the daylight fading into dusk. The beauty of the moment just slips away.

I no longer take much for granted- my own health challenges and my husband’s cancer forced me to start blessing the ordinary. My cup of tea in the early morning, the woodpecker visiting the bird feeder, snow covering a cat tail on our hike. Tiny moments that make up the day and often go unnoticed.

In the past, my ability to appreciate small things was clouded by stress, exhaustion, distractions. My thoughts would preoccupy my mind and much of my day went unnoticed. Almost as if sleepwalking through life, from one crisis to another.

I now guard against losing those beautiful moments-I give gratitude for standing in that space and time, taking in whatever small treasure is before me. I now understand it’s all truly temporary, like a swan floating up the river.