I like to take my car to get the oil changed. It’s not just that the owners of the auto shop provide competent and friendly service within minutes of my home. As an added bonus, their shop is located right on the Elroy-Sparta Trail. So when the car goes in for service, I go out for a walk.
This morning I strolled a half-mile down the trail, listening to chickadees, an indigo bunting, and dozens of red-winged blackbirds. An ovenbird’s bouncy song rang out from the wooded bluff across the road. And in one of the trees growing on the bluff, on a branch that drooped over the highway, a vulture sat patiently, waiting for something to get clobbered.
I followed the bike trail to Thompson Memorial Park, a hilltop campground in the woods just outside of Elroy. It was only a short walk, but in the time it took for Mary and Dan to fix up my car, a ruby-throated hummingbird revealed the location of her nest. A small flurry of iridescent-blue damselflies entertained me by snatching tiny insects in mid-air. And the blue-winged warbler that I’d been hearing all spring (it sings, “bee buzzzz”) finally showed itself, as it heedlessly chased bugs through the brush.
Wherever you may find yourself with a few minutes that would otherwise be lost – waiting on an oil change, waiting for a ride, waiting for a table to open up at a restaurant – look around. Even in a bleak office park or a barren parking lot, you might find something that’s alive: a valiant weed growing in a pavement crack, a crew of hard-working ants. All those minutes that we often lose to the demands of daily life can instead be opportunities for discovery.