the birds and the bees

The Best Advice So Far - the birds and the bees / bird icon + bee icon

Let me tell you ‘bout
The birds and the bees
And the flowers and the trees.

Actually, they were bushes. Well, more like hedges and a possible shrub. But I digress.

In a recent post, I talked about noticing and enjoying anew the treasures already surrounding you, as if you were someone else from somewhere else seeing them for the very first time. That little exercise in focus and appreciation sparked a heightened awareness in me (funny how that happens); and in the days that followed, I had many moments where colors seemed more vibrant, smells more potent — even memories more vivid.

BEFORE YOU CONTINUE: I began this blog post on October 17, when the world up here in the Northeast was still green. It’s now the day after Christmas, and I’m continuing from an airport. At first, I thought it best to scrap this blog post with so much time having passed. Maybe I’d revisit it next year. But then it occurred to me that there’s something in the “sudden” passage of 10 weeks that speaks to the point I was trying to make all along: if we don’t remain intentional and vigilant, if we don’t make time for worthwhile moments in our lives, time keeps doing what it has always done. It passes.

The Best Advice So Far: If we don't make time for worthwhile moments to unfold in our lives, time keeps doing what it has always done. It passes.

One day last week, I returned home after running some errands, parked in my usual spot and headed inside. But I was stopped short. We’re smack dab in the middle of fall here in New England, and, thanks to my newly awakened “super senses,” it struck me as exceptional how warm the sunlight felt as I stood there on the porch, one hand on the open storm door.

I had a choice to make — a small one in the scope of things, but a choice nonetheless. I could continue the expected forward motion into the house, up the stairs, and back to the office where I would resume the work I knew was waiting for me there. Or … I could linger a while longer on the porch, sit to face the sun full on and soak in some of that warmth I knew would all too soon be replaced by the biting cold of winter.

I let go of the door and it eased itself shut. I slipped out of my shoes and used my toes to peel my socks off. The heated concrete beneath my feet felt as gratifying as the sands of any beach just then.

I went so far as to actually sit down on that top step. I briefly told myself that whatever it was that needed to get done upstairs could wait a while longer and would still get done. And then I closed my eyes — and just breathed.

After a few minutes of thinking about … well, nothing much, really … that hyperawareness surged in me again.

I heard a specific bird call, and it was coming from somewhere quite close by. As I opened my eyes, they focused in the direction of the sound. Then I saw him between the gaps in the hedgerow in front of me, hopping from twig to twig as he sang.

It brought me back to a time some years back when I had sat looking out of a window in my then apartment and had noticed a bird, heard him pipping away as he sat perched there on the peak of the outcropping over the door below. I had decided that I wanted to know what kind of bird that was — to learn something new — and I had learned that it was a house sparrow. Perhaps not the most exotic finding, but it had felt exhilarating to know it all the same.

Now, sitting in the warmth of the sunlight on the porch step of my new home, I found myself once again wanting to know. So I took note of the call, resolving to do some research when the moment was over.

Just as I was thinking such things, something to my left — something small and rather close to my head — caught my eye. I turned. It was a honey bee probing about the holly bush beside the porch.

The beginnings of a smile tugged at a corner of my mouth as genuine curiosity rose. The little bee hovered and dove, hovered and dove. But what would a bee find of interest on a holly bush? Holly doesn’t have flowers.

However, as my eyes narrowed and my nose drew closer — there were, in fact, tiny white flowers with yellow centers nestled together here and there among the waxy dark green leaves and telltale clusters of deep red berries.

My first inclination was to conclude that the bush only appeared to have been a holly bush, but that it must really have been something else. I determined to add it to my internet search along with the bird call.

I watched a while longer. Then, as the bee apparently decided he’d collected his fill and buzzed off, I took it as a good time to do the same.

Reluctantly, I headed inside and up to the office; but the work was still firmly on the back burner. I jumped onto Google and began the quest to scratch the inquisitive itching that had started out on the porch.

My aural memory served me well and I was able to pinpoint the bird: a chickadee. What’s more, I learned that the name of the bird apparently is an onomatopoeia of its call: chicka-dee-dee-dee-dee.

Next, I looked into whatever the bush was that was mimicking holly. Come to find out … it was holly. Holly does have flowers after all.

Huh. Whaddaya know.

If you ever want to experience afresh the best parts of childhood, there’s nothing quite like true curiosity that leads to exploration and learning something new in the world. In this case, I’d also unlearned something. Bonus.

The Best Advice So Far: There's nothing quite like true curiosity that leads to exploration and learning something new in the world.

That half hour or so of my life was remarkable — enough so to be writing about it now. I’ll remember it.

The alternate reality I’d have lived out if I’d continued my usual path from car to door to stairs to office to work … would have been neither remarkable nor memorable. It would have merely blended into the myriad other surrounding moments just like it.

And it occurred to me once again that the difference between a remarkable life and an unremarkable one comes down to mindfulness and choices made in moments.

The Best Advice So Far: The difference between a remarkable life and an unremarkable one comes down to mindfulness and choices made in moments.

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