COLUMN: Spring solitude at Cheam Wetlands

'There isn’t a lot of time after all of that overachieving to slow down, look around, and appreciate all you have.'

Canada geese reflected in water at the Cheam Wetlands

Canada geese reflected in water at the Cheam Wetlands



It had been a long time since I’d had the chance to stop and smell the roses.

Life as a parent gets moving maddeningly, dizzyingly fast, in what seems like a blink of the eye. There’s that juggling act of who is picking up whom, who is making dinner, and wait — are we even eating together?

The carousel never seems to stop. But boy, oh boy are we parents proud of those busy, crazy days. We complain/boast about hectic days on social media, listing off piles of laundry tackled, dishes done, meals served, all with enough time left over to be generally awesome.

There isn’t a lot of time after all of that overachieving to simply slow down, to look around, to breathe in deeply and appreciate all you have.

That is, until you’re forced to stop. That happened for me last November, when my own personal whirlwind of busyness came to a crashing halt, literally. A car accident resulted in a broken knuckle on my writing hand, a concussion that addled my brain, and airbag injuries that tenderized me head to toe.

No more busy days for me. But my ego took a hit, too. I had to learn how to slow down, and to stop being busy. As the days and weeks and months ticked by as I healed, it felt awful to feel useless, to not be busy — I couldn’t even plough through the pile of books I’d picked up in October at the Rotary Book Sale. On the worst days, I felt utterly irrelevant.

It was, without a doubt, the worst winter of my life.

But the old adage that time heals all wounds is quite true, and in the meantime I’m learning to embrace this new pace of life. So on Saturday, coincidentally the last day of winter, I took a short, slow walk through the Cheam Wetlands.

I grabbed my camera and a book, thinking I would snap a few pics and put my feet up at a picnic table and read in the sunshine.

But the solitude of the place hypnotized me. With every step, I felt more at ease. Slowly I worked my way to the viewing platform, drinking up everything around me.

It took me a while to hear the birdcalls. To really hear them. I was mesmerized by the rushing water of the creeks, the sound of my feet on the gravel below. As the grasses shook and rustled beside me, I wondered if snakes were awake this early in the year, or if it could be a shrew bustling around.

The nature reserve was alive with sounds, but oh, so peaceful. The geese, the rushing water, the rustling in the bushes was just one part of it. But it may have been what wasn’t there that really made it wonderful.

No traffic noise, no bleeping and blinging electronics, no clock to punch, nobody to chatter away with. Just me and my own thoughts, my camera, and all the time in the world.

Every few steps, I stopped to avoid overdoing things, but instead of cursing my lack of full mobility, I took the opportunity to taker a closer look all around me.

The metaphor was not lost on me. It’s essential to slow down that crazy train of overdoing. It’s time to stop glorifying being busy.

As I slowed down, I found life everywhere. It was time to start taking some photos.

It had been a while since I’ve done anything but point and shoot my little Nikon, so I played with the settings, and searched my memory bank for any information on F-stops, apertures, and other manual overrides.

I slowed down even more, scanning every new leaf, enjoying every bit of green, red and yellow that popped up around me.

The photos didn’t always work out. Among the 150 images I captured the bulk of them were either too fuzzy, too dark, too boring, or just ho-hum.

As I clicked away, I knew that most of what I tried to  capture, while glorious in person, wouldn’t be — couldn’t be — captured in my inferior lens with my rusty skills. But this exploration wasn’t about award-winning photography. It was about getting out and enjoying a morning of solitude.

It was about dusting off a bleak winter mood and embracing spring.

Good practice for smelling the summer roses.

jpeters@theprogress.com