A couple of weeks ago, Alexandra was ready to have a trip to town. Since she was working from home she had not been anywhere in a couple of weeks and was hungry for a Dairy Queen vanilla cone. I needed some plumbing parts from Home Depot to fix a leaky faucet. The ice cream was just what she wanted and we headed home through the countryside to our small rural town. About halfway home she saw some cows in a field, including several calves. I promise, she has seen baby cows before, but even though she is closing in on 30, any baby animal brings a delight usually reserved for toddlers. She made me turn around so she could admire the babies. We found a driveway to pull in to and had a perfect view of a mama giving her baby a bath. The little one stood patiently as mama’s rough tongue cleaned under its chin, each lick making the baby lift up a bit, yet the bath happily continued for several minutes. It was a mini-magical moment for Alexandra and me. In the background, were the purple silhouettes of the Great Smokey Mountains. The rolling spring-green field contrasted with the dark angular bodies of the Black Angus cows. It was a simple, bucolic moment but yet one of perfect contentment for the mama and baby and me and my sweet girl. At that moment, all was right with the world because Alexandra had noticed. She noticed the simple beauty of babies in a field and wanted to savor that moment.
Noticing. This is how we pilgrimage to the present. This isn’t remembering the past or anticipating the future but finding those little moments of everyday life as special and beautiful. Currently our physical worlds are reduced in size as we tend to the business of life and health. But our internal world is infinite when we take time to notice the beauty of life. It is in connecting with nature and the amazingly creative human mind and spirit that we find those timeless moments that feed our soul. It is so easy to get caught in the negative and the difficult and forget to see, to notice the abundance all around, the opportunities to enrich our minds and souls. I’ve enjoyed the operas, ballets, gardens and museums that are online for us to enjoy in a way I haven’t before. I’ve had time to read and tend my house, cook and take a daily walk to enjoy the spring flowers and budding trees.
My sweet friend Becky was reading a passage in my book about pilgrimages to your own back yard. She took that idea to heart and noticed that her own backyard needed some tending and decided to build a “pretty little garden” where she could put her hands in the dirt and find refuge from her busy “on-line” life. Every day she would pilgrimage a few short steps to her little place on earth and found healing and peace. She shared her special space on Instagram. It is up to each of us to find and nurture that space of time and place to pilgrimage; we just have to stop and notice.
Noticing, observing– brings gratitude for the details of your surroundings, the little things that are often ignored but actually hold the essence of life. Notice the taste of simple food, the earthy smell of a cat, the softness of worn sheets, the heaviness of a hardbound book, the tattered edges of a warm rug, the brilliant purple of the tiny violets in the grass. Notice the bird songs in the early morning, the whipporwill’s call at dusk, the croaking frogs after a rain. Each of these things and an infinite amount of other little things in our world become a moment of pilgrimage to our life as we live right here, right now.
My dear cosmic mother Rachael passed away last month. She was in very poor health, the perfect target for Covid-19. As I mourn her loss, I think about something she would often say, “we are in the glory now”. By noticing, we experience Now in each glorious moment.
Rachael Salley 1942-2020