I am somehow always surprised that when I go somewhere new I am most pleased with all the little unexpected things that present themselves, the secret places and small details that I didn’t know a thing about beforehand. Of course, with each new place we visit and discover there is some satisfaction to be reaped from taking in the sights that have given an area it’s claim to fame, a trip to Paris would be amiss without at least viewing the Eiffel tower. More often than not though, I find my experience is most flavored by the lingering feelings left over from the little street cafe, a stroll through a beautiful tree canopied neighborhood, or performance from an incredibly talented busker I just happened to walk passed… it is the unexpected things in life that often are the most pleasing.
After Surviving my first season of northern living (what felt like the never ending winter of Whitehorse) I was very excited to greet the spring this year. But, much to my dismay, spring doesn’t take hold in the north quite the way it does in southern Canada and it took it’s sweet time to settle in. I have to admit there were a few days of extreme disappointment when the weather would warm up just enough to give me a glimmer and then plummet back down to the sub zeros. When I finally let go of expectation and accepted that the natural order of things would unfold as it was meant to I was delighted with what I found.
As spring shook off the cobwebs from a long winter sleep all the dormant wild life of the area, and many seasonal visitors, began to reappeared. On any given day, even right in town, the usual suspects of foxes, coyotes, beavers and bears roam around as they please. Up until a couple of weeks ago I had never in my life seen a porcupine in person and now I see them all the time! It’s great.
One of the spring delights I was most surprised by, however, is the huge migration of swans that come for a Yukon layover as they journey toward their breeding grounds in Alaska. These amazingly large birds begin to make their journey north when the weather is warm enough. Since there is only a few particular places in southern Yukon that have open water for them in the spring they get piled up for a spell before it is possible for them to move on. The newly open water and marshes of the area offer the swans (an other seasonal birds) a wonderful opportunity for a large spring feed, hosting hundreds and some years even thousands of these large white beauties.
A few weeks ago when I was lucky enough to view hundreds of swans in multiple locations around the southern portion of the territory I felt as though I was slapped with the same reoccurring lesson that the entire spring season (and perhaps this overall phase in life) has been trying to drive home to me again and again… We have to look for the good in things, at all times.
Life is FAR from perfect… we can all agree on that. I mean, my goodness, if we truly let our emotional well being get tied up into simple things like the weather we would be miserable far more often than necessary. The swans of the north have reminded me that there is always something beautiful to focus on and usually it is not the obvious thing… it is instead the thing that we have to take a moment to see, to shift our perspective and consider other angles. Would I have been happy to welcome the spring to the north the first time I saw signs of if, well yes, but then chances are the whole area would miss the opportunity to have the swans swing by for a visit which would be a shame on many levels. There a various seasons to the year, and to life, and sometimes surrendering to the ordinary, or to the unplanned and even the “unwanted” gives us a greater ability to participate in the wonders of this life. When we can give up on trying to make everything match the perfect image of what we have expected then life’s little treasures begin to present themselves much more frequently.
“One who is free from desire and sorrow
leaves all fetters behind
to pass beyond birth and death
like a swan rising from a lake,
he moves on in peace
never looking back.”
– Buddhist text