“I felt in need of a great pilgrimage so I sat still for three days and God came to me.”
                                                                                                                 ~Daniel Ladinsky

Today I went for a walk in the woods with a friend. It was a beautiful spring day. Cold enough that the snow was as hard as a sidewalk in most places. We’d had a big warm-up the week before, so there was also bare ground with crunchy autumn leaves and slippery expanses of frozen melt. Keeping on our feet was challenging at times.

We enjoyed a good hike, working up a sweat on the uphill, enjoying a great vista of the Big Lake at the top, gratefully putting our jackets and gloves back on during the breezy downhill. The sun was warm and the birds chattered in the trees. My friend and I shared conversation too.

At one point, we stopped to admire a large sheet of birch bark laying on the snow. As we stood quietly, we heard a grouse drumming on a log, advertising for a mate. It was so nearby that we could hear its feathers moving. Positioning ourselves to be able to see the next drumming display, we stood still and silent.

It was hard to see the bird, hidden by evergreens, and it seemed to be aware of us because it stopped drumming. We were patient. As we stood there, the other birds got used to us. Several nuthatches landed on twigs within a foot of my head, giving their little clown calls. A downy woodpecker landed so close that I could see every red feather on it’s head. A rustling in the nearby leaves grew closer and closer, as two red squirrels chased each other at high speed. The racing squirrels frightened the grouse off of his log, and then they ran right between my friend and I.

I was so excited by all of this activity in close quarters that I felt like laughing out loud. I had to bite my lip to keep quiet. The squirrels disappeared and the grouse hopped back up on the log. He flared his comb, stretched up tall on his legs, puffed out his chest, and started drumming. Slow at first, then accelerating to a blur before relaxing.

What a treat! This is something I will be able to smile about in the days to come. We never would have experienced this if we hadn’t stopped to be still and silent. A lot of our culture pushes us to go, go, go—to make something happen. Stepping back to see what is already here brings a different reward.