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Shannon Brady

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A clump of dirt or something more?

brown toadI thought it was a clump of dirt. Until it leapt a good foot or so onto the sidewalk. It’s almost as if the little brown toad was testing me. “Ha! Fooled ya! Are you always so quick to judge? Was I really not worth a second glance?” the little critter taunted me.

My intention was to go for a pre-dawn ‘nature’ walk and take it all in – the little buds forming on the trees, a bird or two chirping, the inevitable a-hole blowing past the 30 mph limit toward some corporate parking lot. You know, to be present and ‘in the moment’.

That was my intention. Reality was another matter. iPhone in pocket, my hand danced around its edges trying to resist the urge to escape what was right in front of me in favor of the latest FB post. My mind couldn’t stop oscillating between yesterday’s weird encounter with a student in my yoga class, and a fear of forgetting a friend’s birthday tomorrow. So no, Mr. Toad, I wasn’t paying much attention to you. I nearly kicked the small brown mass in front of me out of the way.

Until it jumped. And with that leap of toad-like faith, I got yanked right back into the present moment. And realized, in this awesome news flash from nature, how important, and how damn hard it is, to stay present. But certainly worth the effort, as Mr. Toad reminded me today:

Drift off and you risk treating others like dirt. Literally, in this case, as I nearly missed the life form in front of my foot. Figuratively, when I fail to connect with the barista looking back at me across the counter with a cool pair of glasses I could either notice, compliment, and lift their spirits, or stay glued to my phone and behave like just another spaced out caffeine addict.

Reminisce and miss the opportunity to find joy now. Different time. Different dog. I had to remind myself of this as I walked Mr. Rider, a handsome standard poodle I’ve recently befriended at the animal rescue I volunteer at. He rocks the same prancing gait, big pouffy ears and soulful eyes as my late standard Mr. Bentley, who died last year. I could either stay in the moment with Mr. Rider, paying attention to everything he was experiencing right now – a treat in my pocket he’s salivating over, another dog barking nearby – or allow memories of Mr. Bentley to spew forth. To walk Mr. Rider down Bentley’s memory lane would have robbed him, and me, of the opportunity to form a cool canine/human connection.

Life doesn’t exist on a screenI thought of Mr. Toad as I reached for the iPad before getting into bed. Body and mind exhausted from an active day of teaching yoga, practicing yoga, and getting big, strong, high-energy dogs out of the kennel to play meant I needed rest. Now. Not after mindlessly scrolling through a log of FB posts of what other people, someplace else, at some other time, were doing.

So next time you see a clump of dirt. Look twice. It might be life looking back at you – pleading with you to experience it, as it is, right now.



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