A little while ago I had a meeting at a restaurant in a town a little over an hour from where I live. I carried my portfolio into the meeting, thinking I may need a paper and pen at some point. As we sat down at the table I tucked the portfolio beside the chair next to me.
A word about that portfolio. It was my daily task list, idea notebook, working tablet, and pretty much all of the most important tools that I use all day, every day for work.
Can you see what’s coming?
The meeting was great, and I drove home. Later that evening I reached for my portfolio and realized that I had left it beside the chair at the restaurant! A panicked call to the restaurant followed, and a manager said they had my portfolio in the office and it would be there whenever I wanted to pick it up.
Sweet relief (it wasn’t gone forever!) was followed with frustration and irritation. What an idiot! How could I have left that there? This was going to result in an entire afternoon shot in recovering it, not to mention the expense of the gas to drive way up there and back, all because I was too dumb to keep track of my things!
A messed up afternoon…
I discovered my forgetfulness Friday evening. Our weekend was packed with errands, commitments and more work that we had time to do. Saturday was out, and Sunday afternoon was the only option to recover my essential tools before the work week started again. I thought despairingly about all of the to dos that really needed addressed Sunday afternoon that were going to remain undone.
No matter how we did it the afternoon was going to be shot. I didn’t want to have to ride up and back by myself, so in an attempt to sweeten the deal I told the kids that in exchange for riding up the interstate we would come home on the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park, stopping and hiking on the way if we saw an interesting place.
The trip up was uneventful, the binder was recovered, and we started down the Skyline Drive. We stopped at the first several overlooks. It had rained the last few days, but that day was full of brilliant, post rain sunshine. Everything was intense springtime green. Wildflowers were blooming and it was not quite chilly, but not warm enough for short sleeves either.
By the third overlook I was forgetting my frustration and beginning to enjoy the day. The kids were pressed against the windows, enjoying the view.
All of a sudden Caleb starting yelling from the back seat, “A bear, Dad, I saw a bear! I saw a bear over the hill!” By the time he yelled we were already past. Around the bend was a narrow overlook and I executed a twenty seven point turn in our big van, and drove back to the place he had seen it. There was a small parking lot and I quickly parked. A few hikers were sitting at the trailhead, but they didn’t seem to be watching anything. Caleb had no doubts though, and quickly ran to the edge of the woods and pointed down the hill. Sure enough, almost one hundred yards down the hill a small black bear was shuffling along, turning over logs looking for a meal and enjoying the day! How Caleb spotted him through the trees passing by at forty miles an hour is beyond me.
After watching the bear for a while we resumed our trip. In the next twenty miles we spotted three more bears from the van. Four bears in one day!
We arrived at Dark Hollow Falls, the hiking spot we had selected, later in the evening just as everyone else was leaving. Less than a quarter mile from the parking lot we had the trail to ourselves. As we turned the final corner of the trail to reach the overlook for the falls we spotted a mother bear and cub about thirty yards off the side of the trail. They were moving slowly away from us, up the hill, but easily visible. We watched quietly until they were out of sight, then rounded the corner and were greeted by the full beauty of the falls.
We returned to the van pleasantly tired from our hike, buzzing with excitement about bears, and with our heads full of memories of white foaming water spilling over gray rocks covered with green moss and wildflowers.
We arrived at the last overlook before we exited just as the sun dipped behind the western ridges across the valley.
As we descended the mountain and drove home in the gathering darkness I reflected on what I had learned from my “inconvenient” day.
There is always an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive. My forgotten portfolio gave us an opportunity to drive and hike in a place where we would not have been, using time we would not have used, that ultimately gave us an opportunity to see and share things as a family that we will never forget. How many times do I forget to look for the opportunity behind the problem? How many negatives have I failed to try to turn into a positive?
To see something neat you have to be looking. I still have no idea how Caleb spotted that bear, but I know he wouldn’t have seen it if he hadn’t been paying attention and looking hard for something to see. Caleb didn’t know there was a chance of seeing a bear, he was just looking for something to see. I wonder what I miss because I’m not looking? I wonder what I would find if I spent more time time looking for something to see?
The view from the road may be nice, but the best view is always the one that takes the most effort. Out of all the bears we saw the last two were the most exciting. There was no pavement under our feet, no glass between us. We got to see them because we had hiked down the mountain to where they were, and we had been quiet enough not to scare them away (no small feat with eight people, at least 4 of which are pretty dedicated noise makers), and we (meaning my wife) was observant enough to spot them. The most spectacular scenery (that wasn’t furry) that we saw all day was the waterfall, but it took steep climbing and hiking to see. The best things always take extra effort. How hard am I willing to work? What else could I see, do, and achieve if I got off the road and did some climbing?
How about your family? As a family do you work on turning negatives to positives, or do you stay stuck on the negative? Is everyone in your family working hard at looking for something to see? Does your family typically commit to the work that’s needed to get to the best places?
Do you like your answers to those questions? If not, what can you do today find better answers?