I just took out the garbage from the kitchen, a heavy bag that I’m sure didn’t smell too fragrant to anyone else in the house. I couldn’t smell a thing, which is a common reaction I have, being a renowned Male of Exceptionally Poor Sense of Smell. Anyhow, I put on my flip-flops and hauled it out to the plastic bin beside the garage and stood there for a bit before coming back in.
It was about 10 minutes after sunset, the beautiful twilight photographers and poets alike adore. Still enough light in the sky to see the outline of trees and other things on the horizon clearly against the deepening blue, dark enough for it to be undeniably “night.” Some bright star shone bright in the northwestern sky. Probably a planet actually. For some reason, usually scientific me has little interest in knowing what body up in the sky I’m looking at. If I see a snake slither by, I want to know the species despite having little fear of them (I’m not one to think them bad or expect every one out there is deadly).After about half an hour of web searches yesterday, I figured the baby snake dashing horizontally across the lawn yesterday as I cut the grass was a tiny King snake. I have written letters published in journals debating whether cute little chickadees are actually just one species of bird, or two. I took a course on being a severe storm reporter for the weather service. All about science. But when it comes to stars, constellations and planets, it’s just look up and “ooh, pretty!”.
Anyway, I stood there by the garbage can and looked at the sky, appreciated the one bright star and tiny little duller ones starting to show, and listened to some wrens and Mockingbirds singing late into the evening and just felt peaceful. Content in the moment. I listened for nighthawks, the plaintive little “beep” call of the nocturnal insect-eating bird of our cities, but didn’t hear one and noted to myself I’d never been in Texas this late in the year before without hearing one. I remembered a night about five, six months back when I took the garbage out similarly late in the evening and stood, listening to a hooting owl and eventually was able to make out its silohuette in a backyard tree, it viewing me with as much interest as I it, I think. So, I came back in and pulled the little bag out of the bedroom trash can and took it out too.
It reminded me of a short story I read not long ago – “A Map of Tiny Perfect Things” by Lev Grossman. In it, two kids get stuck in a sort of Groundhog Day-like time loop and end up mapping all sorts of tiny, perfect moments that happen around their town every day – a hawk swooping down to get a floating fish, a teen making the perfect skateboarding trick and riding down a handrail to finish it, seeing a B-list movie actor drive by. Taking out the garbage, seeing the bright star, anticipating a nasal little bird call, feeling a little bit of a cool breeze on my arms after a humid and briefly stormy day, all was nice.
Not fantastic. Not winning the lottery big. Not best sex of my life soul-quaking. Not seeing my favorite band take the stage or my baseball team win the World Series good, but nice. And the earth-shattering, life-changing moments come around rarely. Those little moments after taking out the garbage, seeing the stars, hearing an owl hoot…every day around us when we become aware.
It’s the tiny moments that make it all good. So, as much as our current situation with the pandemic and worry sucks, if you are aware, I bet you can find your tiny glorious moments today. And tomorrow. And the next day. And suddenly, life seems a whole lot more wonderful.
What are your “owl hooting when you take out the garbage” moments?