The day started out beautifully. The rain from the day before had ended sometime during the night, leaving behind little gifts for me to discover – purple violets blooming in the lawn, leaves unfurling on the lilac bush outside my door. Even the hills had turned from cardboard brown to olive green.
I patted my bag to make sure I had my camera with me. I rarely leave home without it and today I had an errand to run in Penticton, about 70 km away from my home in Kelowna. I was hoping there would be time for a side trip.
As I was descending the hill into Peachland, still trying to decide where I should go on my side trip, my attention was caught by the view of Rattlesnake Island, purported to be the home of the Ogopogo. I was so struck by the image that I took the first opportunity to turn around and go back up the hill. I pulled over onto the gravel easement and stepped out of my vehicle, camera in hand.
How many times had I passed ths very spot without really noticing my surroundings? Of course, I had noticed it. Here in the Okanagan, I am surrounded by beautiful scenery. But I mean really noticed it. When was the last time I was made breathless by my surroundings? When was the last time I took the time to appreciate what could so easily be taken for granted?
I had my lunch on the beach in Penticton, as the clouds began to move in, casting their shadows over the hills surrounding Naramata. The beach was quiet. Nearby, a child played in the water while his grandmother watched. There was a raft of gulls on the lake and a pair of Mallards wandered over to see if I was willing to share. (I was not.)
I thought about mindfulness. I thought about what it meant to be present in the moment. All this time, I thought I had been practicing mindfulness, but clearly, I had not. Instead of being aware of my surroundings, I was thinking about my errand and where to take a side trip. Because of that, I almost missed the experience of seeing Rattlesnake Island from a new vantage point.
There are times for thinking and planning, and there are times for letting go and embracing the experience. The trick is to know the difference. And when it’s time to let go, remember to actually do it.
Bring all of your senses into it. See the beauty in the ordinary. Hear the gulls calling. Smell the sun-warmed sand, touch the sky and taste the wind. If you do all of those things, you will feel something else, an opening, an awareness – peace.
I didn’t take a side trip. I didn’t need to. I just drove home slowly, stopping at all the beaches along the way. I said the names out loud, enjoying the way they felt on my tongue. Skaha, Kickininee, Soorimpt, Pyramid, Sun-Oka, Antler.
Each one was unique. Each one was beautiful in it’s own way. Each one had something to teach me.
And it occurred to me – beaches are a lot like people.