Stop and Smell the Roses

By Jack Steward

Have you ever listened to the wind pass through the trees in the forest? This is one of the most magnificent sounds in nature. It creates this calm, encouraging presence that affirms your intention for solitude. I have found that lately I have been walking the trail and letting this moment pass right by. It is in the aftermath of my adventure that I realize that even though I am seeking a new understanding of the world and myself, I sometimes am not truly living in the moment.

We just finished up an adventure for Rock the Park in the Great Smoky Mountains. We spent one of our days in the park exploring Cade's Cove with nature photographer Bill Lea. Bill has an extraordinary appreciation for wild places. While taking us through a day in the life of a black bear, Bill dropped to the ground and rested his head at the foot of a tree. While we were scratching our heads, Bill told us that this was where a mother bear had stopped to get some sleep one day with her cubs. It's tick season, and we all wondered why he wasn't concerned with becoming a human lunch buffet! It quickly dawned on me that Bill didn't really care about that. He embraces this landscape and accepts it as a gift - ticks and all. 

Later that day, we were led through the woods to an enormous tree. It had this presence that left us awe struck. The forest in the Great Smoky Mountains is a magnificent mosaic of pine and deciduous trees. I had observed some incredible things in the park, but never a tree that commanded such reverence. As we started to move on through the woods, Bill asked us to step back and take another look. After a few more glances and the sight of our puzzled faces, Bill pointed out a large hole halfway up the tree. It was a black bear den! In our haste, we neglected to see all of what made this tree special. 

I feel that this is a metaphor for life. A lot of times, we only see what is on the surface - never diving into all of what makes someone special - or what makes a situation worth experiencing. I asked Bill how he discovered this place. He told me that one rainy day, he spotted the tree and just sat and observed it for a few hours. After getting nearly soaked to the bone, a mother bear popped her head out of the hole in the tree - creating one of the most beautiful sights he had ever witnessed. Bill knows how to live in the moment.

This experience in the Great Smoky Mountains taught me that there is more to life then what is on the surface. We all need to stop and observe the beauty of the world around us. Sometimes it's best to lie down on the forest floor and listen to the sound of the wind passing through the trees. Sometimes its worth enduring a rainstorm to observe nature in its purest form. By embracing every single day, we open ourselves up to experiencing the beautiful moments that might take a little patience to uncover. Sometimes, you have to stop and smell the roses.