(listening time: 4:38 minutes)
This morning, Asha and I headed out in the early spring snow to a favorite clearing with a stream.
In the past weeks, I’ve noticed the once burbling water now rushes and has become more of a pond that has flooded the trail beyond the bridge. I attributed this change to the recent rains and melting snow until I noticed beavers are building a dam under the bridge.
As we approached the bridge, I saw two older men on the far side of the flooded trail.
We looked at each other through the falling snow and chatted as best we could across the watery divide and the sounds of the currents and Asha’s occasional splashes.
“The way the light is,” one man said, “it looks like the snowflakes bounce up after landing on the water. Does it look that way to you too?”
“It does,” I replied after watching the fat flakes.
“Is there a way around to your side?” they asked.
I surveyed the changed landscape. The patches of dry land were too far apart to be stepping stones so I consulted my mental map of trails I’ve walked in this area. If there was a route through the woods that would bring them to my spot, I didn’t know it.
The men turned and walked back the way they’d come. Asha and I lingered a bit longer while I examined the beaver’s work. Then we, too, turned back the way we’d come.
I walked home nourished by the bouncing snowflakes and the short exchange, that was so beautiful in its ordinariness.
The natural world and human connection.
This is how I’m experiencing and leaning into beauty these days.
With the shelter-in-place order, my walks with Asha have taken on a degree of urgency. They are a bedrock practice that return me to center.
I am profoundly grateful that I can be outside with Asha who makes me laugh when she stops abruptly and her hind legs leave the ground. That I can fill up on the beauty around me as each day brings a new sign of the turning seasons – sightings of the Canada Geese, Mallards and Red-winged Blackbirds; songs of wood frogs; sprouting acorns and opening buds.
These gifts combine to loosen the ever-present knot of worry and fear in my stomach.
I’ve had other small yet meaningful chats on recent walks. A stranger stopped to discuss the return of the Great Blue Herons. A neighbor I’ve waved at many, many times in her maroon Honda pulled over, rolled down her window and asked me about my walk. Ever since this brief interaction, we greet each other with warm recognition.
Six weeks ago, I might not have thought twice about these conversations, but right now, while we keep our distance from each other, these unexpected moments of connection take on significance and beauty as we reach out across the six-foot divide and indirectly say “We’re in this together.”
I’ve also initiated connection in intentional ways. I’ve picked up the phone to call friends and have delighted in the welcome sound of voices I haven’t heard in a while. We speak of grief, of loneliness, of anger. And we laugh.
I feel bolstered by the beauty of these conversations and less alone in this time of isolation.
Beauty connects us – with other humans, with ourselves, with something greater than ourselves. This is what makes it so powerful, so nourishing and why it matters so much.
And especially now.