Slow down and see more

Photo by Nathan Donoghue

Our umbrellas have been getting a workout in Ottawa this September. Our sunglasses also have been getting a working in Ottawa this September. Umbrella up, umbrella down. Sunglasses on, sunglasses off. It seems that there have been no sunny days, or rainy days. There have been sunny/rainy/sunny/rainy days.

My husband rides his bike to his job in downtown Ottawa as often as possible. This on-again, off-again weather presents a daily challenge. If he cycles to work in sunshine in the morning, he often returns drenched by a sudden downpour in the evening.

Last week he left his office in the late afternoon to begin the trek home under threatening skies. When he reached the corner of Mackenzie and Rideau, the traffic light turned red and the skies opened simultaneously. He stopped his bike and took refuge under a tree.

Beautiful incongruity

The corner of Mackenzie and Rideau is one of the busiest, most confusing intersections in the city. Mackenzie Avenue, Rideau Street, Sussex Drive, Wellington Street, and Colonel  By Drive converge there. Just down the street from Parliament Hill, the intersection is the gateway to the Byward market. Traffic hurries to events at the Chateau Laurier, the Rideau Centre, or the Government Conference Centre. Then add construction into the mix. Impatient drivers blare their horns, cars run red lights, and pedestrians scurry to catch their bus or make it to a meeting on time.

That there is a tree at all in that busy place is a miracle in itself. Yet, there it grows determinedly in its cut-out in the relentless pavement. As my husband waited under this nature umbrella, he looked up. There in the branches of the tree was a bird’s nest.

For a moment, the roar of the traffic and the sound of rainwater splashing off tires receded into the background as he enjoyed a peaceful moment of appreciation of this beautiful incongruity: a bird’s nest in this junction of madness. And why had he never noticed it before?

Wherever you are

He looked around. People walked by without a glance. Cars carried on through the busy intersection. Drivers in cars stopped at the lights kept their eyes forward.

He realized that the people speeding by in their cars would never notice this small gift in their midst. The pedestrians in a rush to be where they’re going instead of where they are would never take time to appreciate a bit of wonder.

Perhaps the drivers in their cars that day looked out their windows and thought, “Poor sap. What’s he doing riding a bike on a day like this?” But he was filled with gratitude for having stopped while the world continued around him. He looked at those same people in cars and thought, “Poor saps. They’ll never even notice that this bird’s nest is here.”

When we slow down, when we stop, we receive small gifts of wonder.

Take a moment at some time today and really look around. What beautiful incongruity do you see that you never noticed before?

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About Arlene Somerton Smith

Writer, laughing thinker, miner of inspirational insights, sports fan, and community volunteer

Posted on October 1, 2010, in good faith, spirit, story and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I like the message and especially the mutual ‘poor sod’ comments…so true to life from both sides.
    thanks arlene.
    ellie

  2. I know the tree you’re talking about. I stopped one day last summer and saw a bird’s nest. I was struck with its fragiltiy with all the noise and cars and people about.

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