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Savoring Small Miracles: Not Rushing Through Them

Susan Marsh's column is like a master class in how to find mindfulness in Nature by taking notes—and seeing
By Susan Marsh | May 13, 2024

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Image by Susan Marsh

Inspired by Montana Poet Laureate Chris LaTray’s One-Sentence Journal, I started a little notebook in which I meant to write down, at the end of each day, a special moment of grace that stuck with me. This was meant to be different from the journals that I have kept since high school, which are more like reports—birds and wildflowers seen, the weather, my moods.

I picked up the notebook not long ago. A few entries and then…blank lines, then a few more, then nothing. What can I say? I was busy, committed to tasks, life got in the way. All those excuses for not doing what matters most. I keep a quote from the Irish poet John O’Donohue at the ready, to remind me.

You have traveled too fast over false ground;

Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up

To all the small miracles you rushed through.

It’s not that I don’t notice the small miracles, but sometimes I catch myself rushing through them. I started the notebook because I know if I don’t record them I will forget. 

Along the trail. There is substance in ethereal light and it’s reflected in our memories of place. Image by Susan Marsh.

I hope this summary of yesterday is familiar to some. I started the day at the computer, which is a recipe for a headache, and I got one in spades. Hours later I realized my day had consisted of trying to navigate websites while pop-ups interfered, running errands, cleaning house, straightening the garage mess, searching for a misplaced notebook, reading glasses, and my coffee cup (several times), and taking the dog for a short walk in a place where I struggled to keep her out of the mud and away from other dogs. I had tickets for an evening event, and by some small miracle (see above) I allowed myself to stay home and rest.

That was the smartest thing I’d done all day. When I can separate the mandatory from the optional, I find that more of my to-do list moves into the optional category. And when those tasks make their move, it is easier to cross them off in favor of what is more important to me at my core.

Last evening I read some of my ‘moments of grace’ in the notebook. How quickly my stress level fell when I read those excerpts. Here are a couple of examples.

2/3       Raven friend, the one with a white feather necklace and silver leg band, has figured out how to wedge the suet feeder into a branch crotch so he can get a good hold on it. He must have delivered the bright shiny soda can that arrived on the back deck, a place that no one could have thrown it, and a brand I have never heard of. My first gift from a bird.

4/19     Four-hour hike on Blacktail Butte. Many elk, robins, flickers, one sooty grouse calling, a crane, lots of juncos, wolf tracks, elk and moose tracks in the snow, and first wildflowers of the season.

May in Wyoming. Sometimes winter wants to hold on, reluctant to let go. Image by Susan Marsh

Words on paper and photos on the screen are no substitute for true experience, but they serve as bookmarks among the pages of a busy life. They bring back the feeling of serenity, wonder, joy, and endurance when walking on a spring afternoon with pellets of graupel smacking you in the face. 

When I was an adolescent, unsure of a very important choice I had to make (dive into the water or delicately step in to keep my hair looking pretty) I recalled a quote from Janice Joplin. “Get off your butt and live,” she said. Into the water I dove.

NOTE: For Chris LaTray’s One-Sentence Journal, see Riverfeet Press.

Author

  • Susan Marsh
    (Author)

    Susan Marsh spent three decades with the U.S. Forest Service and is today an award-winning writer living in Jackson Hole.

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Image by Thomas D. Mangelsen/all rights reserved. See more at mangelsen.com

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