Awakening the Beginner’s Mind

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the experts mind there are few”

– Shunryu Suzuki.

I walked up to the window and peered in. There were a few customers lined up, each neatly occupying a social distancing dot on the floor. The baristas were busily preparing drinks and food while chatting with co-workers and customers. At least that’s what I think they were doing as their masks were moving to the rhythm of their covered mouths. Their eyes, uncovered and expressive were willing partners in their conversations. So, I decided to go in, join the experience and order my first Starbucks grande Pike since mid March. I sat down at an empty table outside on the sidewalk patio. I took my first sip. I breathed in the rich toasty aroma as I watched the rest of the world go by. A sense of normalcy returned for a moment.

That was the most recent in a series of “back to normal-ish” activities I’ve experienced. Activities that included:

  • An evening with friends at a backyard barbecue.
  • A 12 kilometre hike in the woods with some like-minded people.
  • Taking to the ice for hockey with some other over-the-hill beer league players.

It all felt so weird at first.

Like a burst of daylight flooding into a dark space. The dark space of the pandemic protocols. It took a while for my eyes and brain to adjust. It felt vaguely familiar yet, oddly new.

The fresh-off-the-grill cheeseburger accompanied by sweet kale salad, topped off with a cold ice bucket beer and great banter were delicious.

A cadre of mushrooms…

The smell of fresh forest. The sounds of wild birds and other fauna. The variety in size, shape and colour of wild mushrooms. An awe-inspiring space to behold as we hiked and learned a little more about each other. Fully engaged with nature and ourselves until the high pitched buzzing of mosquitos breaks our focus. That frenetic buzzing is one thing I don’t miss.

Arriving half-dressed in my hockey gear, I felt like a 6 year old in peewee hockey. The rink was locked down with strict check in and check out protocols. It didn’t seem to matter to the hockey starved denizens that showed up. The parking lot was packed full with a few masked tail-gate gatherings here and there. We only had 15 minutes in the socially distanced dressing rooms to fully suit up. Running water and showers were verboten. The moment my skates glided the ice, it was all worth it. The ride home drenched in sweat – not so much!

As I awaken from the protracted pandemic slumber, it’s been great re-discovering and appreciating life’s simple joys. Seeing things as if for the first time. Remembering what it feels like to be a beginner.

I’m growing to like that feeling.

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