Earlier this year, in a particularly patchy spot, my girl Amy, who is 200 percent angel friend and actual therapist, suggested I make a list of 50 things I loved so I could move through the hard time I was having. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it till the day I die – lists are divine. She encouraged me to be really specific with my list, and to pay attention for the things each day that made me really just genuinely happy, that made me smile and feel like me rather than focusing on all the things that felt like they were going wrong.
My list included things like the smell of campfire in the distant air. The sound of rain on the windshield stopping and starting when you pass under an overpass on the freeway. Warm sidewalk under bare feet. The smell of hot pavement after summer rain. Music where you can hear emotion in the singer’s voice. The squeaky sound of first-time baby laughter. The way campfire smoke clings to your clothes. Laughing so hard your stomach physically aches. Getting spirit chills when you read something really GREAT. The weight of a kid in your arms.
One thing that kept emerging was my love for collective experiences. I love the Kaysville parade and fireworks, the universal restless energy of the fourth of July. I love going to concerts and singing every word to every song with thousands of complete strangers. I love when something weird happens in public and you make read-my-mind eye contact with a complete stranger. I love when you go on a Sunday drive in the mountains in October to see the leaves and have to drive five miles per hour because everyone else had the same idea that day. I love traveling to see famous works of art or beautiful places, standing shoulder to shoulder in a crowded museum or on a beach watching the sun go down and knowing you’re all sharing a love for the same thing.
It’s why I despise the term basic when applied to our interests. Why do we attach negativity to generally rare experiences of sameness? Why is it a bad thing that twinkle lights or pumpkin spice or fall leaves make so many people so happy? In a world where there is so much hate and divisiveness, what’s bad about having something in common to smile about?
Right now, I get to watch my niece twice a week on the days I don’t have school. It is one of the very best parts of my life.
Every afternoon, weather permitting, we go on a little adventure in the stroller for about an hour. On really cold days, we take a quick walk to Fresh Market and wander the aisles and say hi to fellow shoppers (and spend too much money in the seasonal decor aisle… oh, you don’t take shopping advice from an over-enthusiastic one year old? Your loss because she is SO supportive, guys). But most days, we take the same neighborhood route up a big hill past some horses and look for as many “gogs” (her word for dogs) as humanly possible.
Since we go almost every day we’re together, and my mama or her mama take her that way on the days we’re not, all the animals along the way have started to recognize us. Which sounds like the plot of a Disney movie, but I’m dead serious. So on a particularly lovely day in the past month, fall air crisp, crunchy leaves on the sidewalk making a patchwork quilt beneath our feet, we crossed the street to our horse friends for the hundredth time.
Only this time, instead of having to cluck and kiss and call them over, before we even crested the hill, they pricked their ears across the pasture at the sound of our chatter and the familiar munch of stroller wheels in crunching leaves. And then, they all galloped to us. And it was the kind of moment you see in movies that sort of stops your heart because it’s just so beautiful and good and uncomplicated.
They all scooted to a stop at the fence, dropping their noses to stroller level and whuffling their greetings. We chatted for a while, waving hello and touching their velvety noses through the fence. As we turned to walk up the sidewalk and on with our walk, one horse – black with a white star between its dark eyes – turned and trotted along the fence with us. And a memory came flooding back to me of growing up, going putting with my dad at Davis Golf Course and running up and down the fence with the horses who bordered the greens. So I started running (it’s a jogging stroller after all) and the horse tossed his head happily and matched our pace, running alongside. When we reached the edge of the pasture, we flipped around and ran the other way. Still, he matched our pace, nickering with glee as we ran together.
Margot clapped her little hands and waved at our big friend, and we ran along the fence together, playing over and over and over again. We did this for probably fifteen minutes, horse snorting happily, Margot laughing and me laughing, sometimes with the rest of the herd joining in our runs. It was just JOYFUL. As we ran back and forth, breathless and giggling, people driving by slowed down just to watch, smiling and laughing with us – maybe at us – but a part of that moment.
I was smiling and grateful for the rest of the day. Because I felt genuine love from our horse friends, who communicated connection and affection without a word of shared language. Because I felt such love sharing laughter and wonder and childhood memories with my sweet niece, who doesn’t yet share full language with me. Because without knowing their names or their stories or even rolling down the windows between us, passersby all shared the magic and miracle and honest-to-goodness whimsy of that twenty minutes of our day.
I love that.
I love the connectedness of it all.
This year, as I’ve gotten more into yoga, I’ve come to treasure the closing sequence, the very last gesture of hands pressed together at heart center in anjali mudra, our salutation, our offering, our seal. I treasure it most of all because of the word that accompanies the touching of our hearts, “Namaste.”
The translation of namaste that has most resonated with me is this:
“My soul honors your soul. I honor the place in you where the entire universe resides. I honor the life, love, truth, beauty & peace within you because it is also within me.
In sharing these things, we are united, we are the same, we are one.”
Running up and down the fence, connected to animal, body, breath, sky, and strangers, our shared joy felt like an unspoken namaste.
In sharing these things, we are united. We are the same. We are one.
And that fact and the moments that I feel it make me feel amazed and so, so grateful.