I miss the wildly red tree on the corner of 31st Street.
At first I didn’t notice passing it every day on my way to work, on my lunch break, on my way to interviews and even on my way to pick up the kids from day care. So much was on my mind, like doctor appointments, the word “tumor,” deadlines, homework, worrying about spelling words, and a calender full of places to go.
The month was crammed full of everything possible. I was so caught up in the to-dos that I nearly missed it. One golden fall morning, the tree made me stop my car in the middle of the road. In the early morning, the tree took my breath away — covered with burnt-red leaves on its branches, the wind blowing many to the ground. It was insanely beautiful.
I got out of my car and stood in the middle of the road as my breath turned to puffs of white. It stopped me in my tracks for two reasons.
One: I hadn’t noticed the tree changing colors. I somehow missed all of its red and orange glory. I must have passed by it on my evening runs, too busy getting the miles in to notice. The tree was so stunningly beautiful, so bright. As I stood there staring at the tree, I took in the rest of the neighborhood and the beauty of the seasons changing.
Two: It made me realize I was so focused on my calendar that it was just deadlines, doctor appointments, the “what ifs” of a diagnosis that I had forgotten to let myself live in the moment amid birthday presents, dinner parties, small groups and talks over hot lemony tea. I didn’t let myself be fully there during the ballet or when my son performed his concert. I had forgotten to smile, to really smile where my soul breathes life.
In my perfectionist nature, I plowed through my calender and made my house as perfect as possible for guests. I wanted the house to be spotless clean, the kids’ rooms to be neat and tidy, my to-do list crossed off, the Christmas tree to sparkle so much so that I forgot to take in the moment, to take a deep breath. I got so busy doing that I forget to feel, taste and witness what was before me.
Those moments crossed off the calendar like fallen leaves were stories in and of themselves. A date night with a couple reminded my husband and I why “couples” friends are the support to creating a beautiful marriage. The dinner parties we attended were moments where other couples loved being able to say,“me too” over a bowl of homemade chicken soup and avocado bean dip with Moroccan bread. The Saturday filled with delivering meals around our little city meant handing over a warm hug in the form of a Thanksgiving dinner from my family to give gratitude to another.
Life is a series of events, small events, everyday moments, written on a calendar, lived out through music, art, medicine and relationships. Sometimes it’s marked out by moments when the wind pushes the leaves to fall.
When I drive past the tree on my way to work, on my way home or even to an interview, I’m reminded of the changing seasons. I’m reminded to open my eyes and look at today for what it is, not just a to-do list with a scurry of events or flurry of activity. Today is part of my story and, possibly, someone else’s. A series of stories bookended by the hands of God, and there in the middle of it He is using someone or something to tell about the richness of His love. What appears to be an all-nighter with a sick kid, traveling to Omaha to meet the new specialist, putting up the tree with the grandparents, or an evening enduring a choir of kids actually is one of His best gifts unwrapped, in motion and worth celebrating.
Driving past that tree on that street may be just that, a plain old tree unless you look up and open your eyes. Then you’ll see of the best gifts for that day. May your Christmas season be filled with moments in which you look up, too.
Heather Riggleman has lived in Kearney 15 years. She is addicted to coffee and loves a good run, is a full-time mother of three, author, and journalist. She is learning to accept the mess after chasing perfect for too many years.
Posted: Saturday, December 12, 2015 8:00 am at The Kearney Hub.