By CHRIS BATES
We watched a grizzly bear and her two cubs devour an elk carcass. Granted, it was from a significant distance through a spotting scope, but the refuge was indelibly marked in the visual memory of our brains. It demonstrated the real cycle of life and the struggles in nature. We could see the mother bear’s thick buckskin fur as she mostly observed the cubs and stayed alert for other predators.
My wife and I were with a guide on the National Elk Refuge area close to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, viewing a variety of wildlife and landscapes. With almost 25,000 acres, the refuge offers room for a wide variety of animals in addition to elk, as does Grand Teton National Park. We certainly had amazing views of elk, including an impressive bull elk bachelor group. We also watched an enormous bull moose stroll through a ravine less than 100 yards from us and spotted a trophy-sized ram on a hilltop across one of the valleys.
This adventure was the experience of a lifetime. It allowed us to encounter and watch the beauty of nature and all that it offers. Although I have experienced much in all my years of hunting and fishing across several continents and near home, to be a participating witness to these wildlife marvels was unforgettable.
It brings to mind that we should take in all that life (including nature) has to offer throughout our days. We should take in the beauty that we can see and perceive also in our human experiences and relationships. Realistically, we cannot frequent such unique nature experiences regularly, but we do have a choice as to what we focus on around us each day. Yes, we can appreciate the marvel and magnitude of special scenes while traveling, and for those we should be grateful. It is far too easy, though, to miss the full scope of what is often right in front of us.
To do so requires that we be present in the moment and have our brains available to soak in experiences. It may be the wonder and innocence of a young child. It may be how the breeze ruffles the leaves in a tree above you on a sunny day. Maybe you heard from a friend whom you have been missing. The opportunities are endless, but it takes focus and intentionality, which can be difficult in our busy lives. That effort to be present can also be assisted by paying attention to what perspectives distract us. C.S. Lewis said love looks to the present, while “fear, avarice, lust and ambition look ahead.”
We can likely all agree that God does not want us to miss the significance of what is around us. The nature of our relationships is best shown through love, and the moments along our journey are each unique if we focus on them. He also created the beauty of nature, but that is not relegated only to the magnificent or far away. Romans 1:20 tells us, “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.”
Let’s make our ways of participating in the visuals of the present better. We can minimize distractions like our phones. When having lunch with a friend, turn off the events of the workday in our minds to focus on our friend and ask them about themselves. Take advantage of nice weather days to take 10 minutes outside to walk or sit and pause. Ask your partner about their day rather than turning on the TV several nights a week. Do not be in such a hurry that we miss the opportunity to help an elderly person at the grocery store. Set our morning right by reading a devotional before the full pace of the day begins.
Being intentional in these kinds of ways can benefit the richness of our lives. It connects us with the present that is around us and allows us to listen to God’s messages better. For today, find your ways of engaging in the memorable around you and take in the indelible visuals. His grace in your life will become more evident.
Chris Bates is CEO and co-founder of AgoraEversole a full-service marketing agency in Jackson, and can be reached at Chris@AgoraEversole.com. He and his wife, Stacy, and their children live in Madison.