I Need More Cowbell! (Part 2 of 2)
You need cowbell moments in your life. Fortunately, they’re all around you. But it’s up to you to find them
By Quentin Steen, Representative
In 2017, I was hiking in the Swiss Alps when I heard it, a faint whisper at first. I thought it might be related to a combination of wine and high altitude, but it wasn’t.
Then I heard it again. It was as if some benevolent force had snuck up behind me, slowly took a seat next to me, leaned over, and quietly whispered in my ear. This time louder and unmistakable.
It was one simple, seemingly insignificant sentiment made up of four words: “You need more cowbell.”
In my defence, I wasn’t imagining the sound of cowbells. They were real, coming from cows grazing nearby. I just didn’t recognize them at first. They were tucked away among the glorious scenery, gentle breeze, the occasional swoosh from paragliders passing by, and my lungs trying to fill with enough oxygen to stay upright.
But it wasn’t until the still small voice in my head caught my attention that I was able to hear them. As I continued to listen for their numerous tones, something shifted inside of me.
It was like the voice bypassed my logical brain and grabbed hold of my heart and mind. The voice awoke something in me that had been buried for a very long time.
I knew what it meant, and I knew the voice was right. Finally, succumbing to my reality, I stood up and, in a similar fashion to Christopher Walken’s SNL character, blurted out: “I need more cowbell! Give me more cowbells!”
What came next took me by surprise. I was swept up in the deep emotional connection I had with those words, and in the moment, the profound and simple truth of those words began to unfold.
It lasted for about 10 seconds, which was quickly followed by the embarrassment of the reaction of a fellow hiker who had just crested the vista in time to hear me heralding my epiphany.
Face to face, we stood there, she dressed in all matter of serious hiking apparel and me with runners, shorts, a bottle of wine in hand, and shirtless. In her broken English, she caught her breath and asked, “Are you okay?”
To which I answered, “Yes, thank you. I’m good. Real good. And you? Want to have a seat?”
She, of course, declined my invitation and kept walking, probably fearful for her life after the creeper she just came across at 13,000 feet.
I sat back down with my bread, cheese, chocolate, wine, and a full heart. I remained there, taking in the view and quietly reflecting on my SNL spiritually induced encounter.
Since then, the clarity of this moment became for me one of those huge challenges that confronted me and remains with me to this day. It is as real today as the first time I recognized it—especially over the last year living through this pandemic.
I hear cowbells more often now then I did before because I know what the sentiment means for me. Cowbell moments are those moments when you experience the profound beauty of life. They are all around you—if you have the ears to hear them and the wisdom to pause long enough to acknowledge them.
From one traveller to the next, let me offer you a piece of advice. You need to grab hold of your cowbell moments—they may not last long.
Let them sink in. Breathe in the beauty of life that’s all around you.
Cowbell moments look and feel different for all of us. But if we give them a little nudge, they sound the same.
If you’re still trying to make sense of my analogy, let me share some of my cowbell moments.
• Things I find inspiring—the Louvre, human stories of compassion and courage
• Things I enjoy—diving, the beach, turkey dinners
• Things that make me laugh—a good joke, a dry sense of humour
• My good friends, Brett, Kyle, and Bob
• My wife, Tracy
• Our children, Stratton, Dezi, and Piper
• Our dog, Lily
We all experience cowbell moments—and God knows we need them, especially during these pandemic days. They’re all around us. But it’s up to us to find them.
Now go find yours!
Quentin Steen is a certified mental health first aid instructor for the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
Get your BRAIN right and your MIND will follow!
3 Mental Health Resources to Help You During the Pandemic
- Stronger Minds features videos and quick reads from mental health experts, activities to help you gain resilience, and ask-an-expert videos in response to questions.
- WellCan offers free well-being resources to help Canadians develop coping strategies and build resilience to help deal with uncertainty, mental health, and substance abuse concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Wellness Together Canada: Mental Health and Substance Use Support provides free online resources, tools, apps, and connections to trained volunteers and qualified mental health professionals.