Smelling the Roses

Recently, I was walking through the provincial park near my home with my husband. We noticed two bikers stopped along the river, and then spotted a large deer with antlers moseying along the far riverbank. I watched the deer as my husband took photos with his phone.

Then across the river, we noticed a man wandering toward the deer. His gaze cast downward, he seemed to be searching the riverbank for stones. Even as the deer clearly walked toward the man, the man was completely oblivious to its presence – caught up in his task or his thoughts.

The deer came within about 20 feet of the man – the man still completely unaware. At this point, the two bikers next to us were laughing. I just watched in amazement as the deer finally turned and entered the forest, the man none the wiser.

The scene got me thinking about how often we get caught up in our tasks, or in our thoughts, and miss the amazing little things that go on around us.

I am a “to-do” list maker. There are few things in life that give me more pleasure than crossing things off my to-do list – sad as that is. Often I add things that are already done just to be able to cross them off. I know I get caught up working through my to-dos, putting off the little spontaneous pleasures in life – like taking a walk when the sun is out, or petting my cat when he meows at me.

Sometimes even the things in life that are meant to be enjoyed turn into chores or “to-dos” – making dinner, eating dinner, walking the dog. I’ve gone so far as to write “call mom” on my to-do list, turning it in to something that needs to be crossed off – and I really like talking to my mom!

How many of us can truly say that we stop and smell the roses in life?

I have a lilac tree in my backyard. This spring, my husband and I looked out the kitchen window a few times and discussed the lilac tree – when would it bloom, why was it so late this year?  The scent of lilacs is my absolute favourite smell in the world. But how many times do you think I went outside to appreciate the lilacs when they finally did bloom? Just once – right before the last of them died.

Simple pleasures such as blooming lilacs are fleeting. If we don’t seize the moment, it passes us by. And yet, often those simple, spontaneous events turn out to be some of our most memorable moments – like taking the afternoon off to spend time with our family, or taking a turn on the highway that isn’t part of the trip itinerary.

A few months ago, I was jogging around the reservoir in Calgary with a group of runners. We passed by a deer that was standing very close to the pathway. At first, we weren’t sure whether to stop – we were training for a race, after all, and we had a time to keep. But then we did stop, because as one of the guys pointed out, “If you can’t stop to smell the deer,” then you really don’t know what’s important.