Recently, I remembered the sheer joy of having spotted a Scarlet Tanager on one of my long-ago hikes with dear friends.   Some friends and I were hiking south on the Appalachian Trail.  About half way through the day we decided to take a side trail.  It led to a waterfall and along the way we spotted an amazing velvet looking Scarlet Tanager sitting on a branch high up in the trees.  Wendell Turner and I were ecstatic at the moment.  It was a precious moment although at the time we didn’t realize it.

It is often life’s “little” seemingly inconsequential moments of joy and discovery that are far bigger and far more precious to us than they seem at the time.  I remember enjoying it like it was yesterday.  How can I not remember where I put my car keys an hour ago but remember spotting a Scarlet Tanager twenty-five or thirty years ago?   The moment was far more important than I realized at the time.  We were thrilled to see such a rare sighting.  In all the years and all the miles of hiking in the Appalachian Mountains it was the only time we ever spotted a Scarlet Tanager.  They aren’t among the more common birds encountered.  Why would I remember the exact moment and the sheer joy so many years later?  I remember because it lodged in my heart.

Little did I know then that I would treasure that moment in years to come.  Sometimes life’s precious moments aren’t seemingly so precious at the time, but they lodge somewhere in our minds and come back to us years later.  Treasure the everyday moments with your friends and loved ones now.  Treasure the “little times” now.  They may be more precious than you realize.  They may remain in your heart forever.  Take time for the little moments and the little joys that life offers.  You will not regret it.  We often get so busy with the wrong things that we miss time for the right things. 


Take the time to enjoy the experiences that count today, you may not be able to do so tomorrow.  Taking a “side” trail of several miles on a day when I had to hike eight or nine miles was no big deal then.  Today, I couldn’t even hike the side trail of a mile let alone the main trail of eight miles.  Enjoy life’s opportunities now, you won’t have them forever and time is too precious to waste.

Scarlet Tanager moments often come when we take the side trails in life.  Side trails are where we often find life’s precious experiences.  We had to decide to go off the main trail that day.  We had to decide if a side trail was worth the delay in reaching our destination for the day.  In our daily journeys sometimes, the side trail is the more important trail than the plan for the day.

May the New Year bring find you on some beautiful side trails and may some Scarlet Tanager moments come your way!