Does it seem that life is moving faster and faster? Days and weeks and months pass in a flash. As I type these words, we are almost two-thirds of the way through this semester. Didn’t we just begin classes a few days ago? Now, it’s almost Halloween, and soon it will be Thanksgiving. Before we know it, the holiday season will be here. And then, in the blink of an eye, it will be 2023. Where did 2022 go? Life seems to be flying by at breakneck speed.
Or, maybe it is not that life is moving faster and faster but that we are moving faster and faster through life. We are busier and busier … maybe busier than we have ever been. Responsibilities and expectations seem greater and greater, more and more. And, the margins of our lives — those blank spaces where we can catch our breath — are getting smaller and smaller, fewer and fewer.
We sense that there is something unhealthy about this. Our exhausted bodies tell us. Our over-stressed minds tell us. Our disquieted souls tell us. Is there a remedy?
Good news! There is. I found it in the forest a few days ago.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, I took my twin 7-year-old grandsons, Silas and Luke, for a hike in a nearby forest. They taught me some valuable lessons that helped my world slow down and that helped me slow down in my world.
It turns out that 7-year-old legs are shorter than 66-year-old legs, so I intentionally had to walk at their slower pace rather than my usual “double-time.” It was nice to walk like an unhurried 7-year-old. Instead of “being preoccupied on my way to somewhere important,” I was actually already there … at some important place with them in that moment and in that space. Many of us are fixated on what is ahead. What issues have to be addressed for tomorrow? What opportunities have to be seized over there? What problems on the horizon have to be solved before I get there? We live so much in the planning mode that we don’t find ourselves very often in the present mode. My grandsons were teaching me to slow down and to be present.
It also turns out that 7-year-olds are shorter than most adults. That means that they are closer to the ground, where there are all kinds of cool things to see. We noticed the knot of a tree root that had randomly emerged in the middle of our path. We each offered our speculations about why that was so. We noticed some beautiful leaves on the ground that formed an amazing palate of unusual colors and shapes. Why did they fall like this? Then we stopped by a stream and found some tiny salamanders hiding under the rocks. As we put our hands in the cold water, we pulled out a clamshell, which we talked about. I wonder who used to live in here? Are they away on vacation or out for a swim? Children are better than adults at looking closely at little things, paying attention and imagining. They still have eyes of wonder and hearts of discovery. Every handful of dirt, every inch of creek bed and under every rock there is something almost magical to notice. My grandsons taught me to pay attention to the small treasures that are always at our feet if we will just open our eyes.
But, I also taught Luke and Silas something. Bring chocolate. Always bring chocolate. Before we left for our hike, I had stuffed nine chocolate candies in my pockets, just enough for three “parties” along the way. About every 30 minutes we stopped to have some chocolate and celebrate what we had seen and touched and smelled. We each told about what we had enjoyed. Throwing rocks into the stream was, hands down, the favorite for the boys. For me, it was walking through the leaves, hearing the crunch and smelling autumn in the air … a smell that I remember from walks in the forest when I was 7. We ate our chocolates and celebrated how good life was and how wonderful it was to be together on this fun day.
When we got back to the car, I looked at my watch. We had only been gone an hour and a half. Funny, it seemed like it was all day … .