Tuesday, May 11, 2010

It's the Little Things

Whenever Matt and I are walking, we’re on the lookout for critters: bunnies, squirrels, birds, chipmunks, groundhogs, or whatever we are lucky enough to spot. We have a similar way of looking at the world and can often pass several miles talking about the critters we’ve seen or telling stories from their viewpoint. It can get pretty amusing when we start imagining the conversations that the critters might be having about us. This way of seeing the world is something we have in common, and it is fortunate that we both love finding bits of nature to catch our eyes and motivate our walks. If just one of us was stopping to look at little things along the way, I imagine that the other one might become impatient. Instead, we are each able to inspire one another to keep a watchful eye on fields and woods.

A few weeks ago, we were on an 8-mile training walk and we stopped at about Mile 3 to check on a puddle-y pond that Matt has, for years, insisted is filled with frogs. We have repeatedly checked this little pond and he always insists that there are frogs there, but never had we spotted one. That changed for us last Saturday. I’m glad that he is so much more patient than I am when it comes to waiting for the critters. We stopped along the bike path and leaned hopefully onto the fence that overlooks this little puddle of water.

We watched the water for a few minutes and I was ready to give up, repeating - as I have on many occasions - that there are no frogs in this not-really-a-pond. But Matt grabbed my arm just as I was ready to walk away, and he pointed. It took several seconds for my eyes to adjust before I spotted the frog, but sure enough there he was. Within minutes, we were registering a tally and grinning like little kids. We found 8 frogs that afternoon and stayed watching them for about 20 minutes while folks whizzed by on their bikes and roller blades, oblivious to the froggy haven that we had discovered. Eventually we pulled ourselves away and walked the rest of our miles, engaged and renewed by the strength that watching those frogs had invested in us.

Not everyone is motivated by frog-power, but here is where I am going to suggest that maybe you should be. Inspired by the beauty of nature, I am motivated to be my best self. But there was something more happening for me as I watched those frogs do almost nothing as they floated in their puddle. The following Saturday, when we discovered 7 tiny salamanders alongside the path, I felt that same inspiration building in me again. A well of emotion and motivation invigorates me when we spot critters. That day, I decided it was time to think about what the inspiration is that I am finding from these small living things.
Every time that I stop and appreciate a simple critter living its life, I am rejoicing in all of life. That’s why it has become an important aspect of my training walks. Every 3Day event in which I participate – as a walker or as crew – is an opportunity for me to focus on life and living. My commitment to the 3Day is a dedication to the value of life, and to the hope that someday no more lives will be lost to breast cancer.

Collecting an inventory of critters while I train helps remind me of the reasons that I walk in a way that feels very tangible for me. I am watching for frogs to honor the memory of being at the lake with my friend, Mary Kay, who lost her fight with breast cancer almost 8 years ago. I am counting the salamanders for the woman who is lying on her couch counting ceiling tiles while she recovers from this week’s chemo. I am laughing at the antics of the squirrels for the little boy who wishes his mom were there to laugh at the Saturday morning cartoons with him. I am grinning at the chipmunks dancing along the bike path to remember the man who is driving his daughter home from her first dance alone. When I am standing mesmerized by a bird I have never seen before, I honor the bride whose mother isn’t there to see her wedding finery. When I rejoice in seeing the first bunnies of spring, I am celebrating my friend, Diane, a two-time survivor and the spirit that gets all creatures through the winters of their lives.

The suggestion that one should ‘stop and smell the flowers’ is valid and valuable advice. However, I caution you against thinking that is the only way to engage with the natural world. Simply smelling the flowers is not enough. You need to look at them and hold them and think about what the flowers really mean. And so, I offer this new twist on the old adage, “Stop and look for frogs.” Maybe it won’t be frogs that you find for your inspiration. But find something that helps you to be reminded that we are in this for very big reasons, even if you are reminded by something small.


  1. I live in Dallas and will be walking my first walk this Nov. At the moment the weather is great for training and living in Dallas my whole life I know that probably won't be the case much longer but it is today. So Saturday morning I was out walking and was thinking the same things you talk about in this post. We have several honeysuckle bushes through our neighborhood and I keep thinking in a car you don't smell this wonderful fresh and living smell. I actually had to stop and pick just one small flower, I pulled the end off like when I was a kid and sucked the sweet juice. I don't know if that is really smart but hey we did it as kids and lived so what the heck.

    It is amazing what the world has to offer if we just slow down long enough to enjoy God's creation.

    Thanks for sharing,

  2. This is so true and I'm glad you shared it. WHY must I cry every time I read one of your posts? May the frog-power be with us all as we go on this journey together. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

  3. I have to remind myself of that while I am walking. I get too wrapped up in how long it will take me to complete my walk & try to keep my pace up. Saturday, my walk was scheduled to be 8. I took my camera along & headed to a nearby park. Didn't worry so much about pace. I enjoyed the scenery & took about 20 pictures. A few I shared on Facebook while I was walking.

    Turns out my pace was just fine even when stopping to take a few pictures along the way & I ended up walking 9.26 instead of 8 mile! *snicker*

  4. I went to MS this past weekend to visit my mom and walked the 'back woods' country roads. Just around the corner from my mom's house was this beautiful field of wild yellow flowers. I had never noticed this before and even took my kids back later for a photo shoot. If I had not walked that morning, I still would not know about that beautiful yellow flower field. I think we ALL need to slow down and appreciate all that life has to offer.

  5. Yes! Last week our walk took us by the river. I'm waiting for the tadpoles. I know they'll be there soon, so every time we pass the river I look for them. And today, I had to wait for a gentleman to load tools into his truck and move it, so I stopped to smell the roses. Literally, since I was standing right beside them. I didn't mind the wait at all. Sometimes it's the little things that get you through the walk.