Our lives are often made up of intensity and the rush of making our way through plans while at the same time planning for the next thing. We all want to let up on the gas pedal and breathe in, quiet our minds and simply be still. But it’s difficult, isn’t it? But when those moments come, they are not only refreshing but gratitude-inducing.
I had such a moment not long ago. I had been on our property in north-central Arkansas, some acreage in the quaint township of Snowball (one abandoned general store and a masonic lodge used for community meetings) close to the Buffalo National River, taking a respite from Little Rock and looking at a fence that had just been put in to keep our ever-curious and Houdini-like horses on our side. I’d also taken three dogs with me, and as we crossed hill and dale — always followed by the small herd of affectionate equines — I found myself reveling in a moment of sublime contentment. It wasn’t anything dramatic, but it was one of those rare times when you are present and grateful for the moment itself, and for the day and all that is in it.
As I crested one hill, the sun pleasantly tingled on my face and the far mountains and Point Peter seemed close, surrounding us like a big granite hug. The horses had stopped to graze a few yards away, enjoying their own moment of contentment. My three dogs, Fergus, a large English mastiff, Gabby, our gazelle-like mountain cur and Henry, our Benji doppelganger, were racing into a pond, relishing the water and the simple joy of doing so.
I watched all this from a spot where I could see both sets of animals, and I suddenly realized this was my life; not the far-flung hopes of a future where we picture such things, but my real life, right now. I stood there and found my mouth halfway open, caught between a sudden rush of emotion where I wanted to gleefully yell across the property, exuberant thankfulness in the quiet, tinkling of time.
My childhood friend, Derek, used to make fun of me because I always wanted to “walk the land,” and here I was placing footprints in soil that was my own to steward. In such times as these, I usually bow my head a little, giving thanks because that is where my gratitude is breathed. Words always diminish moments like these, but that is the best I can do.
My thoughts turned to the past several years that had brought my wife, Dawn, and me to this moment in time. And again, all I could do was shake my head in wonder as the dogs raced past, the horses lifted their heads for a moment then turned back to their grassy meal. I had a wife, a partner in life whom I deeply love. I was surrounded by animals that I had bonded with and were my family, and our dream of building a home on a piece of land we had forged together was coming true. I was cognizant enough of the moment to never again want the pace of life to warp me past such moments, though I knew that was impossible. Still, I imprinted the moment so that I’d hoped it was burned into my gray matter enough to be recalled when quiet times were again needed, as they always are.
I went over, scratching a couple of horses behind the ears and affectionately rubbed their muzzles before calling the dogs back to the car and climbing in. As I started the engine, I looked around at the land that had called to us and nodded again in thanks. We drove away as the horses watched us, the dogs panting and smiling back at them as if to say thanks for the playtime. I was smiling, too, and would continue to do so all the way home.