Last Monday afternoon, as I sat next to my giant raspberry-hued salvia, a hummingbird flew so close to me that I felt the wind from its wings. Then, as if to say thanks for all the sugary water this year, and thanks for planting this tall plant with slender trumpet shaped flowers, it hovered a complete 360 in front of me, its head at the axis and its little bird butt swirling around.
With the natural world, you must be present to win. I’ll likely never feel a hummingbird’s air wash again. It only happened because I sat still enough for long enough, and wasn’t deep in my phone.
Earlier this summer, as I swam my daily lake swim, I saw off in the distance what I thought was a muskrat so I quickly turned back from my destination not wanting to cross paths, but as I looked back, it was four muskrats, and as I looked closer, it became clear it was four otters looking a bit like mini Loch Ness creatures swimming with a distinct rolling motion. I swam faster and they swam faster, right behind me, periscoping to get a look at the large ungainly swimmer ahead of them.
Then they dove, shot past me and with the same up and down rolling walk headed up a hill over to the nearby marsh. My heart was pounding, and my head reminded me that this was something that will only happen once. That moment when you are grabbed by the natural, that other world that exists beyond the pavement, the high tech, the stiff harsh cars we speed around in.
Recently I came across a new term, Generation L … for Generation Last. Are we the last generation, have we burned so many planetary bridges, set askew so many systems, that at some point our blissful blue orb will still be here, but unwelcoming to ungainly swimmers like myself? I don’t know the answer to that, but the thought is alarming.
It was never going to be a forever planet, we control less then we know. But to have shortened it ourselves, to miss out on those magical moments, unforgivable.
There’s a field of thought, that one of our reasons for being here is to appreciate creation, that the creator revels in our appreciation of the world. It’s a relationship, back and forth. Every once in a while, there’s that moment of awe, which washes over like a bath of miracle. Every cell in our bodies at attention, eyes open and ears perked. In these days, I push myself even harder to be present, to appreciate and absorb the art show of the natural world.
One more story. On a trip to the Grand Tetons, my wish was to get a glimpse and photo of an otter. The trip sped by, and no sightings. Until the last day as we left the park, something in a river near the road caught my eye. We pulled over, tiptoed out of the car and sat by rushing water, watching and listening as an adult otter portioned out a fish for its large family of pups. We sat transfixed, able to hear the flesh of the fish being ripped into edible pieces. Likely, I’ll see this once in my life.
So, if there is hope in all this, it is that we are here now. Respecting something we are not in charge of. Helping us to love this place a little more. Nudging us to consider our choices each day.
Will what I am doing help the natural world or hurt it? Will we vote for those who consider our nation’s actions as they relate to the livability of our world? Will we seek peace, so that all our human energy can focus on the truly important problems around us?
Opening ourselves to more moments of nature’s awe is what will lead us.
Kris Potter lives in South Haven, Minn.