By Dana Gornall
I killed a bird the other day.
Me. The goddamned vegan. The chick who doesn’t even like to kill spiders (even though they do freak me out a bit). The chick who has thought about getting the word Ahimsa (the Sanskrit word for non-violence) tattooed somewhere on her body, because she really is against violence.
It wasn’t done purposely.
I was driving to work. I had just left my house in a rush; a book bag thrown across my shoulder, water bottle tucked underneath my arm, phone and keys in my hand. I rushed out the door and into my car, as a million thoughts bounced around in my head.
I need to get that garage door fixed. I need to call the IRS. I need to call the insurance company.
Driving down the road, my mind swirling with a million words and thoughts, I saw it. Flying low to the ground it darted right toward my car, just as I sped down the tiny side street a little too quickly. Before I could even think, before I could shift my wheel or press my foot on the brake, it was gone. And then, looking in my rearview mirror, I saw its body on the road.
My heart sunk.
It was just a bird—a bird among many other birds. Why did it fly right toward the wheels of my car? Why didn’t I stop? Why am I feeling so guilty?
I continued to drive.
It occurred to me how mindless I have been lately. Always rushed, not thinking, I try to squeeze in extra minutes into hours. How often do I do this?
All of the time. Well, at least most of the time.
We tend to live our lives in fast forward. There is always what needs to be done in five minutes or this afternoon or tomorrow. There is always a goal, there is always this weekend or this coming summer. We focus on where we need to be in an hour and not what we are doing right now.
As I sat on my back porch yesterday morning, light puncturing the screened windows, I looked around at the remnants of my son’s graduation party from a few weeks ago. This room had been filled with trays of food and voices and laughter. There were conversations, plates, cups, and cupcakes.
In one night it was all over and as I sat looking around, I noticed a piece of 2018 confetti on the floor.
It wasn’t that long ago when I watched him cross the stage and get his kindergarten diploma. It wasn’t that long ago when he started junior high or high school. And here we are. The party is over, the cupcakes are long gone, and it is now on to the next thing.
How fast time goes.
How is that possible? Time goes no faster or slower, whether we are staring down that clock in those last 23 minutes of scheduled work, or if we are passing the evening by gazing up at the stars. An hour is an hour and a minute is a minute. The only thing we can do is be present for it.
Yet we are all speeding by, in a rush with a million thoughts bouncing around in our heads.
I need to get to the grocery store. I need to call the pediatrician. I need to get the refrigerator fixed.
We all have our to do lists, but maybe we should stop trying to squeeze in the minutes where there are none. When we allow these thoughts to take over, when we live in the next minute, or the next day, we lose sight of all that is happening around us. Numb, on auto pilot, we pass through people and places without seeing.
And sometimes we kill birds.
But if you pay attention, the world will open up to you in ways you didn’t expect and moments will become memories.
They will be a five year old stepping across a stage that towers way above him as he gets his diploma. Nights on the couch watching The Walking Dead, or dinners around the table. They will be heated arguments, tears, frustration and hugs. They will be watching the setting sun dip slowly into the horizon as the light melts away, and winter days with the heat cranked up as high as it will go in the car, driving to school in a line of other cars as your breath fogs the air in front of you.
They will be the in breath and the out breath, they will be the feel of your skin against the cool, rubber yoga mat and the namaste at the end of class, they will be the smell your dog after he comes in from the rain and the sound of the toaster popping on a lazy Sunday morning.
The powerful moments are often disguised as everyday moments, and if we just pay attention, they will unfold slowly, in tandem with each passing minute. And there will be no need to squeeze in extra minutes in an hour.
Editor: Peter Schaller and John Pendall
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