10 Minutes of Stillness

-Ask my husband and he’ll tell you I’m a slow walker. I stop to look at too many things: a tree face, an ant crawling on a log, water flowing over rocks in a stream, every type of flower, a stunned bee in the middle of a trail, the way moss climbs a tree.

The older I get the more that catches my eye. But really, my observations rarely qualify as a full stop. They’re more of a pause. A full stop would interrupt my exercise.

I miss a lot by only moving through the woods, and not taking the time to just be.

Recently I did. I stopped to rest on a well-placed bench at the cross roads of two trails I walk frequently. I was amazed at what I observed in 10 minutes of stillness.

Birds called. I do not know their names and it does not matter. They sing with no labels.

An angry bird tweeted in quick succession, a sure sign of danger. I know that sound because I’ve heard it often from the mama bird who built a nest for her four babies in one of my hanging baskets this spring.

The older gentleman, who tends gardens and lawns for a retirement living, walked by pulling his red wagon with his rake, push mower, spade and various hand tools. We often pass each other in the woods. I’m walking for walking’s sake, he’s walking either home or en route to another job. He wears the same thing every day: denim overalls and a blue baseball cap over his mid-neck-length, wavy and thinning gray hair. His old pale yellow Labrador tries to keep pace, but has started to lag behind. The old man stops to wait.

A woodpecker started up his hunt for a buggy snack on a tree behind me. I watched her for awhile then another flew in. They beat their heads against the tree trunk and my neck hurt from the strain of looking up. The new arrival let out a high-pitched short whistle, and the woodpeckers began chasing each other around and up the tree trunk.

Hummingbird wings whirred nearby. I could not see him, but the sound was unmistakable.

Cottonwood seeds floated by.

The gnats arrived and began to congregate around my head, signaling it was time to go.

I walked on.

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