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Taking note: Finding peace

There’s truly nothing like that first little dip into Lake Superior after a long winter. I find myself awaiting this moment through all the colder months, imagining the refreshing, yet bitter embrace of Superior on the first day that could reasonably be termed “hot.”

But it was a surprise, even to me, when I decided to dip my toes in earlier this week, finding it warm enough on the secluded beach that I could no longer deny the temptation to literally test the waters.

While the cool water was a shock at first, I found it to be warmer than I had imagined, surprisingly tolerable for Lake Superior in May.

As I walked through the water, it rushed and glistened around me, lapping at sparkling wet rocks embedded in the patterns made by a mixture of light and black sands.

The sun seemed to provide the most warmth it has all year as I felt the waves lap my toes while I hunted rocks and beach glass near the water’s edge, finding a smooth, gray rock with three separate, yet interconnecting holes that created an odd little face on its surface, and a lacuna-like structure inside.

The sound of the waves and the distant gulls, the water and grains of wet sand on the soles of my feet, and this growing collection of stones in my hand all combined to create an unparalleled feeling of peace.

The water seemed to wash away all the worries and stresses of the past months, all the uncertainty and exhaustion and grief that’s touched us all amid the pandemic.

Everything suddenly felt a little easier, a little lighter.

An invisible weight that I long forgot I was carrying seems to be gone, and I can feel happiness and relief rising in my chest.

And it’s not the kind of happiness that comes from external factors or intellectualizing various events.

It’s not about the past, the future, or material possessions.

It’s the kind of happiness that’s caused by a beautiful, serendipitous, freeing moment.

It’s the kind of happiness that can surprise you, and sweep you off your feet if you let it.

It’s the kind of happiness you can’t really think yourself into.

It’s the kind of happiness that requires us to slow down our endless thoughts and notice what’s right in front of us.

It’s the kind of happiness that can only come from letting yourself be present in the moment.

When we truly take the time to notice what’s around us and live in the moment, it can make an incredible difference in how we feel and how we see the world as a whole.

Try and listen for the little sounds that surround you, whether you’re indoors or outdoors.

Listen for the wind, bird calls, passing cars, or even the little hum of a refrigerator or computer.

Take in the endless tactile landscape that surrounds you.

Find the smooth little spots worn away on your keyboard and notice how perfectly they seem to match the shape of your fingertips.

Appreciate the soft heaviness of a favorite sweater or blanket, or the cooling relief of newly unveiled summer clothes.

Take a moment to truly look at your surroundings.

See the wind blowing grains of sand along the sidewalk, or watch the way the light is filtered through a lacy curtain and casts ornately patterned shadows on the wall.

There’s a little beauty in just about everything if you look closely enough.

And when we slow down and truly engage with our senses, we can find a sense of peace, while learning so much more about the world, others, and ourselves.

When we notice more and learn more, we also tend to be able to help more and create more.

We can honor ourselves, others, and our Earth by paying more attention to the present and all the beauty that surrounds us.

And we can create a world that’s better for ourselves and others, step by step, moment by moment.

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