When we were hiking last week, the weather was less than ideal. It would have been an easy day to convince ourselves to stay home. After all, there was snow forecast for higher elevations and it was to higher elevations we were going! Luckily for me, I have the perfect structure in place to make sure little things like cold and snow don’t make it easy for me to stay home. I know others are counting on me to be there. So, if I say no, I’m not only saying no to cold and snow, I’m saying no to friends. The stakes are higher here.
As we hiked up toward the top of the mountain, the snow began to fall. It was absolutely beautiful. We were wearing layers and had extra layers in our packs, so we stopped to put on a waterproof outer layer. Feeling more comfortable, we continued upward. The lack of traffic on the trail was a surprise to us. This is a very popular trail, especially in the Fall when the larch trees are in full colour. But on this day the only other hikers we saw were a younger couple who passed us in the first half of the climb. When we got to a place where the path forked, there was a sign with a picture of a hiker on it pointing us in the right direction. On top of the sign, the couple in front of us had built a miniature snowman, complete with sticks for arms and a little face. It was so unexpected and so charming. Even though we had just stopped moments earlier to take pictures, and even though my camera was tucked away out of the precipitation, I still knew we needed to stop and capture the moment.
Except for the fact I had the image of the little snowman in my mind as we wandered, I didn’t think much more of it. We climbed to the top, where it was very windy and took refuge beside a nice grove of trees as we rested and ate lunch. On the way down we met several other hardy hikers heading up; we patted ourselves on our backs for our early start, commenting to each other on how much windier it might be for them at the top. The elevation lessened as we travelled down the same path we had taken up, and soon the temperature rose by a few degrees. When we got to the sign with the hiker on it, we were dismayed to see that our little snowman friend had met his demise – he had melted just enough to fall off his little perch atop the sign. It was such a little thing, a nothing really, and yet it was the perfect reminder for me to seize the moment.
We could easily not have stopped to take the picture on the way up. We could have said we would stop on the way down. There will be time later, we might have reasoned. And we would have been wrong. We would have missed the moment.
I’ve had Mr. Snowman in my head this week. It’s not that I’m particularly fond of snow or snowmen. It’s not that I can’t build myself another one. In fact, there will be dozens I can build this winter if I like. But none of them will capture the magical feeling of that hiking day: the first snowfall of the season, the beautiful light on the mountains, the crisp air, the easy conversation, the absolute silence, and the unexpected little snowman.
Jim and I took Ben camping in those same mountains for a few days this past week. Ben LOVES camping. He loves tramping in the woods, he loves helping set up, he loves his little camping cereals, and playing Go Fish. I always try to be fully present with Ben and on this trip, thinking of the little snowman, I was even more so. This was our last camping trip of the season. Of course, we hope to have many more trips in other years. But none will be with this precious little three-year-old boy, who calls out at 6:30 in the morning to see if it’s time for him to come and snuggle in with us. In the blink of an eye, he’ll lose interest in helping place the wheel chocks as we set up and Go Fish won’t hold his attention. There will be new moments to treasure, but I’d be fooling myself to believe I can squander these moments, and then expect them to be waiting for me later.
When I think about the rushing of time, about how days and weeks and years fly by, and the urgency of it all, I’m no longer worried I’ll miss out on big opportunities. I know there are still plenty of opportunities coming my way and I’m planning to seize the ones that call my name. But more than being concerned with seizing opportunities, or jobs, or invitations, I’m concentrating on seizing the little moments. Of being fully present. Of running the mile I’m in. Of recognizing it only takes a few degrees and a few hours for a magical moment with a snowman to disappear.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘How can I seize this moment?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. She has particular expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to seize moments.