Last week, I chaperoned a field trip to the Gilsland Farm Audubon Center in Falmouth with a group of first- and second-graders. We used nets to scoop up fish, tadpoles, and algae (or “allergy” as my kids call it), and talked about the pond ecosystem, but it was an improvised activity that has stuck with me. While we were waiting for our turn to study aquatic creatures arrayed in buckets under a tent, the instructor asked us to close our eyes for one minute, listen, and report what we heard. After the brief silence, the hands shot up: “I heard an acorn dropping.” “Crickets!” “The wind whooshing.” “A butterfly’s wings moving.” Noticing things came so easily to these kids; meantime, I burned through most of the pause thinking about my afternoon to-do list. Over the busy weekend that followed, though — in which we shuttled kids to soccer, hosted a pre-school potluck, picked apples, and celebrated my dad’s birthday on his beautiful property in Baldwin — I tried to put the exercise into practice, paying attention not only to sounds, but sights and smells as well. I didn’t pick up on any wing-flapping, but I did revel in the way our boys clamber to be close to their grandpa and the heavenly scent kids acquire when they’ve been running around in crisp fresh air.
Stopping to appreciate little things like these feels even more imperative in light of the recent natural disasters and Sunday’s tragedy in Las Vegas. Looking at these photos from just a few days ago, I’m wishing we could all go back and live forever in the time before that horror happened. I’d be sure to roll down the windows and blast some Tom Petty songs, too.
How do you stay present in these challenging times? Please share your thoughts.