Cape Breton and Back
My darling husband, baby girl and I have been on vacation for the past two weeks; a much-needed rest after a summer of steady ministry. So few people have any idea how much effort and time their pastor needs to do his job right, and how much effort and time their pastor's wife puts in, either in helping him or in doing church work herself. Add a few funerals and a busy toddler and no vacation since 2004, and you will realise just how desperate we were to take some time as a family.
Money doesn't grow on trees, however, and so we only spent one night of luxury at a delightful bed and breakfast in the Truro area. The Tulips and Thistle is all that a bed and breakfast should be, quiet, beautiful, and just a bit out of the way, and the people who run it are such a sweet couple, so friendly, and were wonderful about accommodating a toddler. While there, Ella (now 23 months old) and I explored the lovely park-like grounds and found something very interesting, the above-pictured caterpillar. He was a handsome, hungry fellow, who wiggled along at, what was for him, a rapid pace. Ella was enchanted. (Oh, dear, that was NOT meant to come out as a pun). She squatted and watched him happily for fifteen minutes or so.
Considering the whir of activity that my little Ella presents, and that the child had been strapped until recently in a car seat, to see her discover a small, slow-moving animal, and to cease all activity so that she could intently gaze upon its tiny form; that she observed it eating a leaf, and pointed in wonder while identifying its "head" and its "bum." What is the miracle here? The amazing miniscule thing that God had created, or the stillness of a child absorbing every detail?
Indeed this was neither the first nor the last time on our vacation that I found myself tied so closely to the little items in the natural world. We were hiking as a family in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, and of that adventure I wrote my best friend:
That is not to say that we were not blown away by the beauty of the "big" things. On another day and another hike we had two moose walk out of the bush only a few metres away from us, a cow and a calf. Upon observing us and deciding that we were no threat (we weren't!) she reclined on a grassy spot
Hiking with a toddler cannot be about speed or distance; "getting there" is not the point, because at any moment you may have to turn back - But it IS about being "in the moment," enjoying every little thing - the smallness of God's creation: pinecones (lots and lots of pinecones), snails, slugs, caterpillars, squirrels, birds, leaves, sticks, and rocks. These teeny tiny things make up the beauty of the mountains and cliffs.
while her calf nibbled at the grass around her. Even when Ella called out (shockingly loudly, considering our attempts to be quiet and not disturb the moose) "BABY MOOSE!" they just glanced our way and then continued to ignore us. It was an awesome moment (perhaps "moment" is not the word, we observed them for at least a half-hour).
As adults, we tend to begin to notice only the big things, like the moose - and in losing sight of the little things, like the caterpillars, we lose our wonder at the infinite variety that God has created. Yes, the moose were majestic, and very impressive, but the Lord saw fit to take the time to make caterpillars beautiful and interesting too, with their colourful stripes, dark heads, varying fuzziness (if "fuzziness" was not a word before, than it is one now!), and many legs that allow them to grip thin pieces of grass to either eat or transverse.
It's coming back to me, that wonder of the small. Ella is reminding me of what I have lost, and she is teaching me to enjoy it again. Before this vacation, I cannot remember the last time I was hiking and I happened to notice a slug - I either pass them by, or worse, step on them without ever realising that they, too, were on the hiking trail.
But Ella sees them, and she has the audacity to point at that slug, with a sparkle of joy in her eye, as it leaves its little trail of slime that allows it to travel without scraping up its belly, and she says, "Pitty!" (which translated to Adult English is "Pretty!"). Amazing! My child, who yesterday charmed and flattered me by saying "Pitty" as I tried on a dress, now points to an icky, yucky, slimy slug and calls it pretty. And you know what? She's right!
I only know she's right because I took the time to squat with her beside the slug and observe it's tiny tentacles, to see how it rolled into a ball as she gently touched it, to see her wave a "hi" as it unfurled itself (thinking that the giant who had poked it was long gone, no doubt), and then, after thirty to forty minutes of sitting quietly beside a slug, I too realise that the slug IS pretty, and that I was a fool to ever think of it otherwise.
The key is, partly, to stop rushing, because when we hurry, only the big things can catch our attention, and ofttimes even they fail to hold it. Having Ella means that I am being granted a second chance by God to notice the little things. He has sent me a first-class teacher who is currently training me to slow down, don't rush, take the time not just to see but to observe, to let the "teeny tiny" things of nature seep into my soul, to let myself wonder not only at the vast beauty of the mountainous highlands, but also the ant in my own backyard, that running after squirrels is not a futile task, but a fun one, and that if a whirring, flurring ball of energy can take the time to quietly watch a caterpillar eat, then I can too.
As you can see, our vacation was a resounding success!