No matter how much mindfulness training I do, my mind still notices what is different about other people I meet for the first time, most often their physical characteristics and then their language. But what’s equally true, is that when I’m at Torrey Pines, a smile and a conversation about the beauty of nature and what we’re privileged to be in the midst of transforms those differences into unique opportunities for connection and understanding. It turns strangers into stars for me. Stars of Torrey Pines.
Yesterday afternoon, there were three groups of people standing against the wooden fence at Razor Point Lookout gazing out at the ocean. On the right was a group of two young men and a woman, dark haired, sturdy looking, taking photos of each other. I asked if they had taken one of all three of them together so they could return in 10 years and celebrate their friendship. They nodded no, so I offered to take that photo. The man in the red hoodie handed me his phone. They posed, I clicked, and it turned into a fun photo session. Smile. Click. Laugh. Connect.
As I walked away, a couple standing to this group’s left – he a tall, thin yogi-type and she, a lithe brunette, said, “Would you mind taking a photo of us.” “I’d love to!,” I said, “Especially with that t-shirt.” (It said, “Heavily Meditated.”) We laughed and the man, who had a German accent said, “If you think that t-shirt saying is creative, you should go to Japan and see what they do. Sayings you wouldn’t believe.” Smile. Click. Laugh. Connect.
To move along the trail, I had to backtrack past a third group of four people. Wow, did they look alike. And like the others, they were posing for each other. I asked if they were family. Four heads nodded yes while one pair of eyes rolled noticeably. I asked if they’d taken their holiday photo yet and if not, this would be a perfect place to do it. They all looked at each other, the eye roller laughed and nodded no, and the mom handed her phone to me. They were full of expression and clearly enjoyed one another’s company.
Three groups, a total of nine people, from all over the world, and for a few minutes, we were all in the same community enjoying the park and each other’s presence.
I felt this warmth of connection and gratitude wash through me as I walked away. When I was about 30 feet back into the foot trail, I turned around and yelled, “Thank you so much! You’re my Stars of Torrey Pines! How about a group photo?!” Not knowing what to expect, I held up my fingers, 1, 2, 3, and yelled, “Go!”
Much to my surprise and delight, they rallied and gave me another first at the park – a spontaneous group photo of people unknown to each other, people willing to let down their guard with each other for a few moments, mug for the camera (instead of mugging each other) and welcome me as if I were a family friend posing them for the Holiday photo. Wishing that for you and your family and the world.
Smile. Click. Laugh. Connect.