After a long stretch of brutally cold weather here in New England, we were treated to some sunny, 50-degree days last weekend. This time of year is a particularly tough one in these parts. Everyone is fed up with winter, and the gray grumps are in full force.
When I saw the forecast for the weekend, I knew a long walk was in my future. On Saturday, my wife, Melissa and I met up with my sister at one of our favorite stretches of beach to get some exercise and much-needed vitamin D.
Plum Island houses the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge: a popular spot for birders and nature lovers alike, so it’s not unusual to see lots of people with cameras and binoculars roaming around the area. On this day, however, they were out in droves. Clearly, I’m not the only one eager to take advantage of this gorgeous weather! Also, our island has been the home of several dozen snowy owls this winter — a rarity in these parts, so the number of visitors had increased quite a bit.
We head down to the shore line to start our walk and look for sea glass and silver dollars, and things immediately feel magical. The visual of the bright blue sky, the gorgeous sunshine reflecting off the ocean, and the eight-mile span of sand ahead of us is a welcomed assault on my eyes. This, combined with the familiar and comforting smell of the beach, and I’m in heaven.
As we walk along talking about all sorts of things, we notice a couple sitting in beach chairs up ahead. They’re bundled up (after all, it is only 50 degrees!), holding hands, and seem incredibly peaceful. As we get closer, I notice that their chairs are situated in the middle of a big heart that had been drawn in the sand.
We pause behind them to take a photo, hoping they don’t turn around and think we’re creepers. As we do, we notice a bottle of champagne between them. Ooh, a celebration! All three of us are giddy at such a sweet scene, adding to the already pretty-great day. As we go along, we start speculating about all the occasions they could be celebrating.
On our walk back to the car, the couple is still there. This time, we can’t help but stop and find out what the deal is. The deal? Nothing. They woke up that morning, saw it was a gorgeous day, and decided to spend a few hours at the beach. On their way, they stopped to get some champagne, just because.
“Ok,” I say. “But who drew the heart around your chairs?””I did,” Jennifer said, raising her hand. “It was his idea to come to the beach and get some champagne. The heart was all me.”
These two had no agenda other than enjoying the day and each other. My cup of joy was getting close to overflowing at this point!
We finish up our walk and head back to the car. As we make our way down the long boardwalk from the beach, we notice a large crowd gathered in the parking lot. Hmm. Wonder what’s going on.
I stop and ask someone on the boardwalk.
“They’re releasing a snowy owl any moment. They brought it up from Logan Airport because they feared for his safety there.”
Oh my gosh, could this day get any better? I am a HUGE animal lover and can’t believe I’m about to not only see a snowy owl up close, but also watch it soar into his new, safe(r) surroundings!
Before releasing this gorgeous bird, Norman Smith of the Mass Audubon Society, while holding the owl, shares a bunch of information about their health, behavior, reasons for the influx further south than ever before, and he walks around the crowd to be sure everyone has a chance to see it up close.
After posing for far more photos than I’m sure he wants, it’s time for the snowy owl to be free. The crowd counts down from 10-1 with their cameras poised. Accompanied by a concert of shutter clicks, Norman sends the owl off. As I watch it fly away, my eyes fill up with tears.
“What’s wrong?” Melissa asks.
“I don’t know. I’m just so happy he’s healthy and free. And I’m so grateful for the work Norman and the Audubon do.”
To be honest, I’m surprised at my tears. In retrospect, sure, the owl experience really moved me, but I also think my cup of joy had finally overflowed, and the surplus was coming out of my eyes.
Each and every day, we have the opportunity to find gems and gifts from the Universe. The key is being present and open enough to receive them. I could’ve just as easily judged the couple on the beach as nuts for sitting there like’s it’s a summer’s day; or I could’ve been annoyed at the crowd in the parking lot, blocking my car, preventing me from leaving. Had I chosen those perspectives, however, I would’ve missed out on all of this magic.
Are your eyes and spirit open enough to see every day joy? It’s your choice, you know. At any moment, you can change your perspective and see things in a new way. And when you do, you’ll be blown away by the gifts that have always been around you, just waiting for you to embrace them.
Until next week, keep taking those small steps to Live Out Loud.