Last Saturday, Steve and I drove my truck to NE Minneapolis, where we parked near a railroad yard and continued our journey by bicycle.
I drive by this railroad yard every day on my way back and forth from work. It's a surprisingly colorful place, and I wanted to capture the things that capture me as I buzz on by to my job.
I am taken by the bright reds, blues, and greens of the boxy containers
And circular lids that catch and reflect the sunlight
Funny how you can find beauty in the lines of a bridge
Or even a rusty hole
When I’m driving, I wonder about the people in the cars next to me. Do they notice the glitter of metal, the earthy redness and contrast of rust and steely gray, the ever changing shadows we cast as the sun nails our presence to earth?
Monday to Friday, as I head to a world of desks, monitors, and fluorescent lights, I greedily take in these treasures and hold them behind my eyes and mutter under my breath, "You can't fence me in!" (If you look squinty-eyed, you will see this branch has its symbolic fist raised like Rosie the Riveter.)
After leaving the railroad yard, we rode around, stopping at whatever struck our fancy.
After these grueling bike tours, Steve and I often (maybe too often) regain our energy by stopping at the neighborhood ice cream shop for a cone. My favorite flavor is Espresso Almond Fudge. And this leads me to tell you a story that is somewhat removed from railroad yards, yet follows the track of my thinking on noticing and being present.
One day when we were sitting and eating our cones, we overheard a conversation between a father and his young son. The son asked the father “What if you could be my age? Would you do it? We could play together all the time then!”
The father looked around the room and told his son, “Eat your ice cream before it melts.”
“But Dad, if you could, would you change to my age? It would be so cool!”
“I don’t know. I like being a Dad.”
“But you could be my Dad too! You’d just be my age. And we could play together!”
“Just hurry up. We’ve got to get going.”
I sat and listened to this conversation and wanted to make the father take a good look at his son. “See that? See that look? See the adoration and admiration? Hear that enthusiasm? Take a darn good look because you’ll see that less and less and then it will be gone entirely and replaced by eye rolling and sneering! I know you don’t believe it now, but it will happen. Your son wants you to be a kid with him! How cool is that?! You are the whole beautiful world to him! For God’s sake, go with it! Tell him ‘Yes! That would be awesome!’ Be silly! Pretend! Talk about the games you would play. The adventures you would have. Be illogical and impractical! Do not blow this moment!”
But I said nothing. I just sat there, my heart aching with the knowledge of what this man was letting pass by. I knew the full cost of losing this small moment not because I’m so wise, but because I’ve also been that stupid.
And so it goes. And we learn. And we hope that it’s never too late to let the people we love know how much they matter to us. But we may run out of tomorrows for a second, third, or fourth chance.
Maybe I notice so much now because I know the cost of not noticing. My advice? Take your chances when they appear in a child’s innocent question or your partner’s outreached hand.
Take your chance and run with it!