My husband and I decided to take our two year old son Noah to the Tualitin Hills nature park. We had just moved to the area and were itching to go hiking. It was rumored to be popular for its beautiful sights and calorie-burning paths. It sounded perfect for us. My partner is a photographer with a keen eye for even the most miniscule of details, I am a writer who lives for nature-inspired poetry. So I packed pretzels, PBJ sandwiches and, who could ever forget, apples so red Snow White would die for a bite.
We were storming the trails by noon, excited to explore virgin territory and eager to be amazed by the forest; the most authentic museum in Oregon. Though as we blazed the trail, awing at the greenery and breathing heavy up hills, we found ourselves hitting the wall. Our stamina was depleted. Chasing a giggly toddler and keeping up with the terrain was pushing our joints to their limits.
What started off as lighthearted banter and thrilled comments were soon bitter resentment. The heat was creeping along our sweaty shoulders, it was unbearably humid, and where did all these mosquitos suddenly come from? It wasn’t long before we had our first argument for an audience of tall trees, chirping birds and speedy baby squirrels.
“Must be nice only carrying your camera.”
“I don’t know why you’re so suddenly mad?”
“I just wished you’d help more with Noah,” so I moved farther away with our son in tow. I wasn’t genuinely mad, and he knew that, but July was proving to not be my lucky month after all.
Though good did come from this trifle fight that was hardly a fight; a moment I would adore. Something our son would be amazed by.
I made it through the thick brush to see the hipsters from earlier, the ones from the Lily pond who had been too noisy for the birds to stay long. The one with the obscure handle bar moustache was pointing, he stood as still as stone. I instinctively haulted. My eyes followed his to seek what he had found. I was amazed, a brown owl the size of a large cat perched just a few feet from him.
I observed with glossy eyes as Noah oohed and aahed. I wanted to grapple for my phone, to freeze the moment in time, to have proof for Facebook. But I only stood there, watching and taking in the detail of the owl. Then cringing in terror as it unhurled its wings, flew at the hipsters and then over my head to a branch behind me. My husband was only now making his way around the corner.
I didn’t dare shout his name, I pointed fevorishly while mouthing his name. He had become fascinated with a leaf, just nine feet away from the majestic predator that eyeballed our son.
And, in almost a cruel twist of irony, when he did come around to noticing the owl it was done with us. It took into the forest to not be seen again, a beautiful creature too pure for his camera. As if the world had stopped for that moment, it came back full speed. The sound of the highway just a mileway, the crunching of unseen hikers on gravel, the chorus of other critters in the canopy. Even the green of the trees seemed brighter and the pebbles below our feet harder.
I teased my husband for missing the shot of a life time, and he lectured me about not using my phone’s camera, but I wasn’t mad, not even for fun, because I had been blessed by living in the moment.