I know it's a cliche; but have you ever seen anything so beautiful it took your breath away?
That's what happened this day last year when the historic floods cleared enough for our private photography workshop group - led by Charles Needle - to be let into Monet's Garden at 7 am sharp, before the public crowds.
I rounded a corner, and there was Monet's fabled lily pond and green arched bridge, framed by weeping willows and an abundance of living color. Palettes of pink , lilac, fuchsia, red and purple splashed across my vision ... and soul.
Dewitt (famed National Geographic photographer) and I agreed the gardens are a living, breathing testimony to Nature's abundance. What we experienced was the opposite of a perfectly manicured garden with neat rows, tightly clipped hedges and carefully controlled design.
We were surrounded by, as Dewitt put it ... a PROFUSION. I was intrigued with his just-right word and looked it up later. Profusion is defined as a "lavish display, extravagant."
That's exactly what was spread out before us and all around us. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "The earth laughs in flowers." I found myself laughing out loud with sheer joy at what was around me.
I felt pulled along the garden paths, drinking it all in, filled with a timeless sense of wonder. The trees were teeming with the coos, calls, chirps and twerps of birds greeting the new day.
Author Frederick Franck suggests we could counteract our busyness and non-stop rushing by creating an “island of silence” by letting our eyes fall on whatever happens to be in front of us – a flower or tree – and that we “look at it until it looks back at us.”
That’s what I’m drawn to do. And as I gaze at the beauty surrounding me, I get out of my head and "come to my senses." Don’t you just love that phrase?
I’m reminded of ‘dah talk I had with Tom and Andrew when it was time for them to head to Virginia Tech (Go Hokies). You know the one I’m talking about. Where we try to distill everything we know into a couple pieces of advice on how to create a quality life that matters? I dug deep and asked myself, “What do I know for sure? If I could only pass along a few life lessons, what would those be?” Here's what I told them:
Imprint. I told them, "Charles Bukowski said, 'The days race by like wild horses over the hills.' The good news is, you can counteract the fleeting nature of time by imprinting special moments. When you experience something that moves you, look around and take a mental snapshot of what it looks like, smells like, sounds like, feels like. Then, you can revisit it and re-experience it anytime you want.
My second piece of advice? “If anything ever goes wrong, get out in nature. If you’re worried about a test, if for any reason you’re feeling bad or sad – get outside and look up. You will instantly feel better because it’s impossible to be in nature without getting a big picture perspective that centers you in what really matters.”
The third? If you're ever at a crossroads, need to make a decision and can’t make up your mind, take the bolder of the options.
That’s what my dad suggested when I was trying to decide what to major in in college. Career counselors were advising me to study medicine or law so I could leverage my brain.
But I had grown up playing sports and planned to help pay my way through college by running recreation departments. That's what I wanted to study - Recreation Administration. Some people said that was a "joke" career, but I wanted to do work I loved that mattered and that's what Rec. Admin. represented to me.
So, instead of "conforming" to a more traditional or "practical" path, I chose the bolder option, the one that put the light on in my eyes, and things have just gotten better and better ever since.
I told my sons that Dad's advice to take the bolder option has led to a life I love. “When we make safe decisions, a small part of us dies. If you're not sure what to do, do what puts the light on in your eyes.”
Both Tom and Andrew have told me those pieces of advice have come in handy over the years.
And last year, in Monet's Garden, I got to do for myself what I had recommended to them. I traveled to France as a result of a bold decision to take off for a Year by the Water, a creative venture that absolutely put the light on in my yes. I looked up and around and immersed myself in Mother Nature, and imprinted every blessed moment of it.
Meister Ekhart said, “If the only prayer we ever said was ‘Thank you,’ that would be enough.” As I steeped myself in the splendor of that special place, I sent up, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
As I did, a duck swam into view. I laughed out loud as what popped into my head was … lucky duck.
I am indeed a lucky duck. And you will be too if you make a bold decision to take time off work this weekend and go somewhere beautiful that takes your breath away. It's summer. Do NOT be one of the 59% of Americans who do not take their full vacation days.
The clock is ticking. Not in a morbid way, in a motivating way.
Where is a place you've always wanted to visit - or a place that fills you with joy every time you go there? Get yourself there. And when you do, get out of your head and come to your senses. See, smell, hear and feel the sights and sounds. Look up and imprint. Send up your own "Thank you, thank you, thank you."
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Sam Horn, Founder/CEO of the Intrigue Agency, is on a mission to help people create quality projects that add value for all involved. Her TEDx talk and books - POP!, Tongue Fu! and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? - have been featured in NY Times, Forbes, INC and presented to NASA, Boeing, Intel, Cisco and YPO.