It’s a great day to be alive

Sometimes, when I’m scatter-brained or in a hurry, the universe has a way of jolting me back into the present moment, re-aligning my focus and altering my attitude about how I move through the world.

I had such a moment this week when I was down by the Haw River monitoring bird nest boxes for the Friends of the Lower Haw River State Natural Area.

After checking the boxes, I decided to take a little hike along the river to get some exercise. I was hiking at a pretty fast clip when I saw a white-bearded man in a blue shirt ahead of me, standing still and admiring the river.

Haw River on April 4th, 2022

As I approached him, he turned and said hello. I said hi back and asked how he was doing. His reply was quick and confident, “It’s a great day to be alive!”. I almost stopped in my tracks. I looked at him again and saw his gentle smile, the pure joy of watching the river flow, feeling the sun on his shoulders, and soaking in the moment of zen he had created for himself by being present with the place where he stood. Realizing that I would get my exercise no matter how fast I hiked and that I might get more out of my walk by being more present, I immediately slowed my pace and altered my attitude about the purpose of my hike.

In that moment, everything changed. I felt lighter, more peaceful, more joyful, more tuned in to my surroundings. I looked at my world through a clearer, crystalline lens of gratitude. Suddenly, there was so much more to see, hear, experience on this hike.

The may apples carpeted the forest floor in places
A few of them were blooming
Small sprigs of poison ivy were emerging in scattered patches all along the trail
Spring beauties were still abundant in spots
This tiny moth was resting on the sandy bank of the river

As the trail turned north along Pokeberry Creek, I felt a deep connection with our own little homestead of Pokeberry Pines. The unnamed creek that borders our property flows into Pokeberry Creek, which flows into the Haw River. So, as I watched the water here, I knew it had come downstream, right by our home where we’ve planted and nurtured so many native plants and watched the ebb and flow of water making its way to the Haw.

Pokeberry Creek, flowing toward the Haw RIver

One of my favorite spots along this part of the trail is what I’ve come to know as the Fairy Circle, where a large grape vine has created a visual portal in the woods. The ground is covered with bright greenery, signaling spring’s rebirth. It is always a magical place for me, coming around this bend and feeling the woodland spirits here.

The fairy circle

A simple comment from a stranger that day created a shift in my universe, opening the door for seeing the world in a different light on this day. On my way home I wondered about his comment – was he was just feeling the moment or was that his attitude about life every single day? I wondered about the profound impact of his simple words on me, and I wondered if I could make someone else’s day brighter by answering a common question – “How are you? – with a phrase like “It’s a great day to be alive!”. Thank you, white-bearded stranger, wherever you are.

Indeed, every day is a great day to be alive when you are actively engaged in living, grateful for what you have and where you are, and spreading love and kindness wherever you go.

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