Hiking in the Forest Knowing When to Slow Down

By: Theresa Gabriel

One morning in mid summer, I headed out for some time to myself on the trails of Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, Nebraska. As usual, I stopped in at the Visitor Center to pay the entrance fee, then got back in my car and drove a couple miles down a long and winding road to the quieter back entrance.

It was a typical warm and humid summer day in Nebraska. Starting out on the lush green trail, I was already uncomfortably warm. The bugs were everywhere: mosquitoes, gnats, flies, bees, you name it. I followed the stream trail, which made its way through four-foot high grass. I tried to enjoy the setting but had to constantly fan away the bugs in front of my face. I grew increasingly frustrated.

Eventually becoming exasperated with the bugs, I stopped dead in my tracks and waved my arms all around while turning around in a circle. I accentuated my attack on the insects with a slight growl to alleviate my anger. Just then the whole world moved and went tearing around me.

After my initial shock, I saw what I had missed the moment before.

It seems that a deer had been nestled in the tall grass just one foot, (one foot!) from where I stood. I missed it because of my preoccupation with the insects which I believed were bent on ruining my morning. When I started making such a fit, the deer was forced to abandon its spot. It leaped in the air right before my eyes, literally, and dashed off for better cover.

It was too late. I missed it. Now I was attentive and ready to see what was around me, but the sight that might have been seen was gone. It killed me to know that I missed the enjoyment of being so close to wildlife! Immediately I wondered what else I was missing, and not just there on the trail. I wondered how the bothersome bugs of my life kept me from noticing really important stuff. This has become a life lesson that Ive remembered often. Its affected my visits with my Grandma, the time alone with my husband, and get-togethers with friends. Its affected my to do lists. My motto is If I dont do it, will anybody notice? If it doesnt add value, I simply cross it off my list. Ive learned from my mistake.

One day this summer while visiting Colorado, my husband and I sat quietly on the bank of a pond and watched swallows dance in the air to catch flying prey. I was amazed at the sharp changes of directions they could make in mid-air. After I sat there for quite some time wearing my bright green hiking hat, an equally green hummingbird flew up to within two inches (two inches!) of my eyes, gave me a look over, and flew away. He was gone, having paused only for one full second, but this time I didnt miss it. I remember exactly what that hummingbird looked like.

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