Be Still

Eleanor Deckert
Be Still

My morning jog is a habit. I am not a fitness enthusiast, yet, I plod.

It matters to my heart and lungs, muscles and bones. So I do it. My dog is my trainer. She knows what time it is. I have a rather uninteresting route. A curved driveway, the highway sounds nearby, beside the river, past an intersection, near a pond, through an industrial lot.

Springtime greenery, summer flowers, autumn leaves, winter walk.  I take care on the icy footing.... November – gray, dull, monotonous, muddy, fog.

One feature of interest in November: the salmon return to the pond to spawn. A bald eagle is often my morning companion, eagerly searching for easy prey. I pause to look down into the water when I notice a ripple. Yes, the fish are in the quiet water. I pause to look up into the tree when I notice the shape of the eagle. Sometimes I see him drop, swoop, soar across the river.

Then it’s back to watching the road, avoiding potholes and rocks, skirting slippery mud, repeating the routine without much thought or focus - until last Tuesday.

On Tuesday I sometimes skip it. I have to be ready to go somewhere before 10 am. Tuesday morning I zip through my housework. I like deadlines and schedules. I can come home to a clean house. But this time, I decided to go outside first. I didn't know that a life-lesson was waiting for me.

Plodding, the dog up ahead, the day grey again. Halfway up the side of the pond, I heard a quiet voice. I interpreted it to be a goose, stopping to rest along the southbound migratory flight, warning the other geese that the dog and I were hazards.

Still jogging, I turned my head, intending to offer the Canada geese a farewell. I always feel sad to see them leave. It signals the start of the long isolation of winter.

White! Not geese, but swans! My eyes expected to see two, a pair that sometimes rest in the marsh near the highway south of Avola. But, it wasn't two. My eyes struggled to comprehend all of the white I was seeing. Five... no six swans!

I gasped, and glanced up to see where the dog was, hoping she was more interested in the scents in the grass. The swans were whispering to one another, deciding what to do, swimming quietly, but alert.

Oh! Why don't a carry a camera?

I turned to start back home. Would they still be there by the time I get back? The dog, ever aware of my movement, ran back towards me. In less time than it takes to tell, the swans startled, lifted off, climbed up, away from the trees, circled towards the river and out of sight.

With every fibre of my focus I watched the largest birds to fly, their amazing wingspan. The loyalty. The huge distance they must travel. Where do they come from? Where do they go? Oh, why did I move? Why did I not hold still? A camera can't capture a moment like that anyways...

Disappointed with my own actions, I headed home.

How often do I interrupt one experience to reach for another, or overlap more than one activity, disregarding the wonder in the moment?


I eat while watching TV, or reading, or writing a list, or scrolling Facebook, or walking, or driving. Am I at all aware of the flavour of my food? I hurry in the shower. I plan the next day while I tuck into bed. I sweep while I talk on the phone. Do I ever enjoy the sensations of the water, the pillow, the voice of my friend?

Do I ever hold still? How can I incorporate a renewed pledge to "be still" in my daily life? "Stand still and look, until you really see" is the quote on a poster my husband gave me back in the 1970s.

I can stop to breathe along my jogging route, taking notice of my senses of sight, sound, smell and the kinesthetic awareness inside my own body. I can pause and enjoy the warm water cascading down. I can hold a hug a moment longer. I can sit still before I take that first bite. I can plan open space in my day and not cram every minute with activity and purpose.

I can renew another of my morning routines: Prayer.

"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10