Stop and Smell the Roses – Or Whatever Else Makes You Smile

Let me introduce you to my geese.

Well, these geese are not actually mine. But I’ve become mildly obsessed with them.

My infatuation began years ago, when I lived in a new, sprawling subdivision with amenities that included several lagoons. One spring, a pair of geese decided to establish their home there.

I’m no expert on waterfowl, but anyone could see these two were lovebirds. They were inseparable, paddling lazily in a lagoon, flying side-by-side over rooftops, and strutting around the neighborhood like any other proud homeowner. I was enchanted. To my great disappointment, they didn’t like being approached. If I ventured too close, they’d hiss menacingly at me, so I learned to keep my distance. But the random sightings, conducted from afar, always made me smile.

Honk if you like geese

Today, that mated pair has multiplied into a flock of at least twenty geese. Although I no longer live in the lagoon neighborhood, this gaggle of geese really gets around, giving me lots of delightful opportunities to see them. I can’t rationally explain why this pleases me so much. But I suspect my slightly silly preoccupation is an antidote to my tendency to take every darned thing way too seriously.

Here they are, hanging out at the outlet mall. They must have heard about the winter sale.

Geese at the mall

I love when they take to the air in formation, calling out to each other with their unmistakable honks and barks. (Just for fun, listen to this: mood music!

Flock of geese

In the springtime, the mommy and daddy geese proudly bring their little ones to choice spots around town to nibble on grass that’s sparkly with morning dew. My favorite of these sites is the expansive lawn in front of a warehouse distribution center on Crossroads Parkway, a twisting, winding road near my office that’s dotted with mostly industrial businesses. My geese are there most mornings for the breakfast buffet, so my drive to work usually includes a chance to be charmed by the sight of them. And I would never have discovered this if I hadn’t been rear-ended on the I-95 off ramp last year.

How a car accident led to a better drive to work

Before the accident, I usually jumped on I-95 as the quickest route to work. On this particular day, the line of cars exiting the freeway to merge onto the highway was backed up half the length of the off ramp, just before the deep bend in the road. And that’s where I was when the 18-wheeler rear-ended the sedan that was stopped behind me, knocking it into the back of my CR-V.

If you’re going to have a collision with a tractor-trailer, using another car as a buffer is a good idea. Fortunately, my vehicle wasn’t damaged, and although I was a bit jolted, at first I felt fine. I was actually more concerned for the driver of the buffer car, who was taken by ambulance to the hospital. (I later learned he was OK, thank goodness.) It wasn’t until a couple of hours later, after the rush of adrenaline subsided, that my body loudly proclaimed the truth. OMG, everything hurt!

For two days, I could hardly move. Unbearably stiff and sore, my mind conjured a host of horrible scenarios involving herniated discs and a lifetime of pain. Dutifully I applied ice (brr! I much prefer heating pads), took Advil and retreated to my yoga mat for a little gentle stretching to combat the stiffness. By the third day the worst was over and I felt ready to get back to normal.

Driving to work that day, my eyes nervously focused on the rearview mirror, I was much too anxious to take I-95. It was quite distressing to find myself so uncomfortable on a familiar stretch of road. So, I altered my route that morning, skipping the freeway to wind my way down Crossroads instead, where I was rewarded with a goose sighting. Now it’s my everyday routine. My commute may take a few minutes longer, but I’m a lot more relaxed.

And I get to say hello to the geese as I pass by.

Seek out positive experiences

Life can be so full of sharp edges: traffic, deadlines, bills and conflict. So often I feel like I’m endlessly rushing and never slowing down long enough to savor anything. One of the ways I counteract this imbalance is by purposely seeking out little pockets of joy in the grind of the everyday. It’s a part of my personal stress management practice, and it really works. It doesn’t alter the circumstances themselves, but stopping to smell the roses (literally whenever possible) can change your day because it adjusts the way you think.

Stop and smell the roses

Carving out those little moments fosters a glad and grateful heart. It’s harder to cling to a dark mood in the bright sunlight. Have you ever had an argument with someone and then stormed outside into the midst of a dazzlingly beautiful day? You may want to stay mad, but if you allow yourself to accept this little gift, you might find your anger subsiding.

Ever since my training to become a meditation teacher, I’ve become more aware of the inner workings of my mind, the detours it takes and the stories it tells me. And I notice that, if I’m not careful, I can operate for hours on a weird kind of autopilot, doing one thing and thinking about a dozen others, which can sometimes be a very bad thing. Mindfulness means being present in the now, not worrying about the future or ruminating over the past, bringing focus and clarity into those everyday moments that we might sometimes miss. And when those present moments are infused with lightheartedness, it’s even better.

If you’re having a rough week and don’t have access to neighborhood geese, I’ll bet there’s something else right under your nose, something simple and natural and essentially good, that can remind you to stop taking everything so darned seriously. Go find it, and let yourself be delighted.

Geese at Pier One