My husband, Charlie, and I celebrated our 35th anniversary this month with a weeklong trip to our favorite place in Wyoming. Typically we only visit in the summer for epic hiking in the national parks or fly-fishing on legendary rivers. I like to think I am always fully present to the spectacular scenery there but sometimes, I forget to be awed. I know the extraordinary becomes ordinary if you forget to truly see.
Whether I am in Wyoming or at home in North Carolina, the best part of my day happens in the morning. I always try to wake early both to write and to catch the early light show. This is when the sun rises after a velvet black night and the sky is erupting with promise. It begins with a line of burnt orange seeping up to a coral and then peach and then gold before a white that feathers into blue. It happens every morning, but sleep in, hit the snooze button, and you miss it.
On our first morning of our trip, I was not quite adjusted to Mountain Standard Time, so I slept in—I missed it. The second morning, I vowed not to skip the sunrise so I willed myself awake at 5:30 a.m. There was just a soft blue light covering the valley and the nearby rooftops were layered with two feet of snow. With just a hint of moonlight remaining, I could see the ski slopes white against the fading night. There were bright lights dancing along the trails that I knew were grooming machines but from my vantage point looked like fairies in the forest.
My New Mountain Friend
As I watched the dawn fade and the day begin, I turned to cozy into a chair by the window and I was startled to see a large head with two long ears peaking above the windowsill. Tiptoeing so as not to wake the sleeping giant, I moved to take a closer look. It was indeed a huge mama moose nestled right up against our house quietly enjoying a long winter’s nap. Only the large-paned window stood between us and without it, I could have touched her very long nose.
I didn’t want to wake her so I stepped back, curling under a blanket on the bed to study her from afar—which was really only eight feet away. Shielded by the wooden sides of the house, the moose was sleeping in a curled ball with her head tucked under her feet. It seemed she had found a haven in this alcove and was resting peacefully.
Over the next few hours as she slept, woke, and slept again, I texted photos of our marvelous moose to our daughters and friends. It turns out, our moose was not alone. Her teenage son or daughter (how does one tell?) was sleeping under a nearby spruce. Later, a fox meandered through our winter wildlife wonderland. All in all, my moose stayed almost eight hours that day before rousing to feed in the creek and wander away.
The next morning, I woke easily, eager to see my friend. But as I looked out the same window, she was not curled in the same spot. Disappointed, I made my tea and it was only as I was sitting down in the chair that I realized she was indeed there. This time, even more startlingly than before, she was standing in the window watching me. Over the next 45 minutes, we studied each other. At first, she gazed at me, standing, her full height unmoving. Eventually, she took slow steady steps until she was right outside the window before me with her nose almost touching the glass.
Could she see me inside watching her? Maybe she was just studying her own reflection in the glass with a glare of the sun. But it felt as if we were watching each other, familiar with each other’s presence, two moms sharing the quiet morning before the day began. Eventually, she went to sleep as before until late morning when a loud noise startled her away.
I didn’t pay attention when she left. I assumed she would be there the next morning—it seemed our resident moose loved our little spot. Our daughters and son-in-law responded to all my texts and photos with, “We need to name her!” There was a vote for “Darla” and we agreed on “Darla Jean.”
The next morning, I woke easily, excited to spend my quiet time with Darla Jean. At home, our black lab, Dexter, curls beside me in the mornings. It seemed on this vacation, I would have a sleeping moose. But when I went to the window, she wasn’t there. I checked the other window where she had stood watching me, but she was gone. She never returned. Through the rest of our week, we spotted her and her teenager along the creek, or under some trees but she never returned to the alcove beside our house.
It seemed I had too quickly domesticated my friend. Too easily assumed that she was just part of the scenery without really waking to the wonder that a 600-pound mama moose had just spent the past two mornings inches from my face, close enough to pet.
It’s easy to do. All around us in this world are magical happenings. Sunrises that dazzle. Mountains that astound. Even moose that come to call. All of these remarkable events around us always and available each day but there is no call to witness. We have to be up, out of our beds but most importantly, we have to be awake to see them.
For the longest time, I slept through my life. In the early days of motherhood, I was exhausted with four children under six, so there were mornings I pulled the covers over my head just pleading for the clock to magically turn back so that I could sneak one more hour nestled in my pillows. And then, there were days I was just too busy with to-do lists to notice the world around me.
Whether it is because we are sleeping in or just sleepwalking in our lives, we need to be reminded of the constant beauty around us. Maybe there isn’t a moose in your yard, but it could be a hummingbird, bluebird, or a woodpecker ready to impress.
Or maybe there is a sunrise or a sunset waiting for your attention? Or just maybe there is someone you need to curl beside and share the morning with to remember how lucky we are to wake up today?
Whether it is a magical moose or simply a human kindness, we have to pay attention to see it. We have to remember to witness the extraordinary and not dismiss it as ordinary. It may not happen again.
There are miracles all around us. What moose magic might be waiting for you to notice?
Ready to embrace the extraordinary moments every day? Learn how in this podcast episode: This Is How Carpe Diem Can Change Your 2021 – 154