Try your very best to live in the present moment where your heart beats are. ~Bernard Basset
Last month, my husband and I took our sons to Ano Nuevo State Park for a docent-led tour to see the elephant seals. I’ve always wanted to do this but I never seemed to have the time to sit down and plan it. Since I’ve started eliminating things from our home and removing unimportant commitments from my life, it feels like I have more time and energy to make plans and spend more time with my family.
The kids weren’t super excited (or so it seemed) when I told them about the family day I had planned; it wasn’t that they didn’t want to go, they just weren’t happy about getting out of bed so early on a Sunday morning. I had a quick flashback to my early days of motherhood: in those days, it was so easy to get them up, dressed, and out the door. It didn’t matter if we were going to the park, the zoo, or a family party, they were always excited about an adventure.
The weather was gorgeous as drove over Highway 92 and then south along Highway 1. The sun shone, the water sparkled, and clouds of various sizes painted the sky.
We made our way over to the Visitor Center; my husband and older son were fully engaged, reading about the history of the area and the elephant seals. On the other hand, my younger son was being goofy as he tried to annoy his brother, doing everything in his power to ensure this outing was not an educational one.
There was a slight breeze as we walked the path along the coast. It was a perfect day to be near the ocean, enjoying the splendor of the wildflowers. There were families, couples, and a group of disabled people on the trail; everyone was enjoying the gorgeous Sunday weather.
Howard, a retired physician from Santa Cruz was our docent; he was engaging and very personable during our tour as he explained the near extinction of the elephant seals, the migration patterns, and breeding pups. It is an interesting but rough life for the elephant seals.
I took a few pictures of the coast and the seals, as I walked alongside my husband, watching our sons as they observed the large mammals, asking us questions as well as sharing their knowledge of sea life – thanks to years of summer camp at CuriOdyssey, they knew more than I did.
Neither of my boys complained about the length of the tour, nor did they ask, “Is it time to go?” My younger son recorded the barks of the seal pups; we saw several dead pups who had failed to thrive, their bodies still on the wet sand. Crows and gulls took turns swooping down to feed off the carcasses.
“It’s the circle of life, Mom” my older son said.
My son is correct. But it still made me sad.
On the way home, we stopped at Pie Ranch and picked up a pie for dessert. As we climbed in the car, the boys chattered about the great weather, how cool, but sad, it was to see the elephant seals. It had been worth getting up early for this venture.
When we got home, I swiped through the photos I had taken on my iPhone. In the spirit of minimalism, I removed the duplicates.
As I looked through the photos, I was disappointed to see that I had not taken any pictures of the boys nor had I had any taken of us together as a family.
I realized I had been so caught up in the beauty of being outdoors, being with my family, and enjoying the present, I hadn’t even thought to take pictures of every moment of our outing.
Those moments last month may not be visible on my phone, however, when I close my eyes, I can still feel how the sun and the wind felt on my skin.
I can still see my boys laughing and joking around.
I can still hear my husband chatting with our sons.
Those moments may not be on my phone or in print. Instead, they are imprinted in my heart and in my memory. I am okay knowing this. Those imprints mean I am honoring my values: family, relationships and being fully present. A gift.