About 9pm on the night after Christmas, Joanie and I bundled up for a ski at a nearby county park. With several inches of new snow, trails not yet groomed, overcast skies, a misty glow from the lights along the trail and no one around, there was a sense of wildness to the evening. We decided to ski both loops, maybe 4 or 5 miles altogether.
After a mile or so, we came to a stand of young adult red pines that's always been a special place for me, a place where the energy is palpable. On this night I could feel the energy 30 feet away, and when we stopped in the midst of the stand, it was really powerful. I experienced a kind of melting into oneness that usually only happens in deep meditation. Joanie could feel it too. We stood there 5 or 10 minutes basking in the presence, savoring the sense of connection. As we moved on, something felt a little different from before.
After another mile or so, Joanie spotted a doe off the trail to our left. We glided by her, stopped and watched her watch us. I could feel my heartbeat, pounding partly from exertion and mostly, I think, from the energy of that moment. After a while, she walked toward us and stood on the trial just behind us. She was joined then by a stag, who sauntered over from the other side of the trail. A foursome, we faced each other, quietly present, for what seemed like a long time, before they moseyed on. As we skied, they stayed parallel off to our right, a bit ahead of us, for a hundred yards or so, before the trail took us to the left and we parted ways.
Awed by that experience, we skied on, not saying much. After another mile or so, a red fox up appeared up ahead, traveling the trail in the same direction we were. He stopped. We stopped. He stared for a bit; then trotted toward us – and kept trotting toward us, closer and closer, till he was about 15 feet away. A tinge of nervousness crept into the amazement I was feeling. He stopped, paused for one last look and then, like he had not a care in the world, turned off into the woods, making a trail in the snow that was so thin and delicate, I wouldn't have believed it was made by a four-footer, if I hadn't seen it.
Magic was afoot. Except for once on a solo trip to the boundary waters when a bear cub came running up to me, I've never known animals in the wild to approach. As Joanie and I shared the wonder of this, I imagined that we had somehow become part of the forest, not separate from it the way we humans are most of the time. Whatever the explanation, clearly, we had been gifted.
The next night, we went skiing again. Truth be told, I wanted more magic.
This night had none of the last night's wildness. It was earlier in the evening, sky was clear, trails were groomed and the parking lot was crowded. Hoping still for some duplication of last night, I suggested that we ski the same route as before. With a much faster pace, it didn't take long to reach the red pine grove. This time, the energy was gentle, more subtle, not like the power of last night. I must confess, I was a tad disappointed.
The skiing, however, was great. We zipped along; encountered several humans, but no wild life. Approaching the area where we had seen the fox, I complained to Joanie about the lack of animal sightings. Not 30 seconds later, we spotted a bushy-tailed animal on the trail ahead. It didn't stop to look at us. It didn't move toward us. It slinked off the trail and disappeared into the woods – a skunk. I nearly laughed out loud.
The universe certainly has a sense of humor – a nice way of teaching and a gentle way of reminding.
After work, a couple nights later, with a light mist falling and rain forecasted for the next day, I was back at the park – skiing the same route, alone this time, in a humbler frame of mind. Entering the pine grove, not knowing what to expect, I felt once again a powerful envelopment of Love. Standing there, knees relaxed, spirit joyful, bursting with gratitude, I asked for a healing. And just then, a breeze moved through the trees, dumping a big plop of snow right next to me. I was startled but, fortunately, didn't need the plop to land on my head to get the message.
These experiences teach me, for the umpteenth time, that I am not in charge of magic. It's a gift. I can't make it happen. Lord knows, I've certainly tried over the years to create magic moments in relationship and in other areas of life. Magic doesn't come from effort. In fact, the harder I try, the more elusive it becomes. It arrives unpredictably when we open ourselves, without expectation, to what is – when we bring a beginner's mind, perhaps a childlike innocence, to life.
Maybe it's no surprise that New Year's is often depicted as an infant or toddler. The season invites us to begin anew – to welcome life with an open heart and a willingness to be surprised and a softening to enchantment.
So, please have a wonderful and delightful new year! Relax, enjoy, connect, stay present. Let yourself be surprised by the magic of 2011.