The other day, I decided to walk along to the garden centre to meet my family for coffee. I thought it would balance out the chocolate and orange scone I planned to have, as well as being good for my general sense of wellbeing. The road to the Garden Centre is quite busy and one of contrast. On one side there is a busy road, full of cars and vans whizzing past, and on the other is open farmland, lying waiting for the spring planting, with the low, winter sun shining down. When I looked one way I felt the stress of modern life and when I looked the other, I relaxed and enjoyed the beautiful, cold sunny morning.
This reminded me of something that had happened earlier in the week: I’d heard that a friend was facing the last few months of life after a long battle with illness and pain. She talked in her email of how much she had enjoyed her work with adults and children, supporting them through mental health difficulties and of how much these experiences had taught her. She then described the hospice where she will spend her final days; a place surrounded by gardens, and said “I am so blessed.” This is not a phrase you think you might hear from someone who has spent the last few years in pain and who is facing an early end to life. She does not, as far as I am aware, hold beliefs that would assure her of a heavenly future. But the whole way through this experience, she made a decision to look for the good, to be thankful for the small blessings and to travel hopefully. I was really saddened by my friend’s news and challenged by her email – but how quickly I got sucked back into life.
It was pouring with rain and the café where I met my husband was cold. My car was covered with bird droppings from when my children had borrowed it and parked it under the trees behind their flat. I’d hoped to get the car washing service to clean it whilst I did my weekly food shop, but when I got to Sainsbury’s there was not a fluorescent jacket or bucket of water in sight. As I returned home, the petrol light came on. How easily I’d become irritated and grumbly when, a few hours before, I had been reminded of what is really important in life.
Lately I have been constantly challenged to be more fully “in the moment” and to practise a mindset where I am consciously thankful. It is so easy to get caught in the rush and pressure of the everyday and feel constantly overwhelmed with life. I thought about this when I took my parents up to Highdown Gardens this week. It was the first day of half term and I had time to walk with them and admire the snowdrops (and I had had a very tasty date and walnut scone to fortify myself) but because I am used to living at a fast pace in term time, I was finding it difficult to slow down.
Suddenly my Mum said, “Look, the Celandines have started to come through.” (Small, yellow wild flowers for those of us whose knowledge of yellow flowers is limited to buttercups, dandelions and daffodils). She was so excited and desperate to look for more that I told her to go for a wander whilst I walked my dad back to the car. As we walked slowly, arm-in-arm, the sun was coming through the arch of trees and I became aware that there were snowdrops, hellebores and celandines everywhere, if we only took the time to look. It was one of those moments that will be forever etched in my memory, me and my dad, walking along that woodland path.
So I return to the walk along the road to the garden centre. It really seemed to sum up the constant tug there is between thinking about life’s necessities, problems and challenges, and valuing the small things, the unexpected pleasures and the beauty of creation. It was really a matter of choice which way I let my gaze wander and, more to the point, where I chose to focus my thoughts. There are times when we have to focus on the more demanding or mundane side of life but it is more of a challenge to think about where we choose to let our minds dwell. Let’s be fully ‘in the moment’ when we are experiencing life’s small pleasures, choosing to be thankful and appreciative so that we notice more moments, and realise just how special they are.
Written by Rosalyn Satchell