Monday, May 20, 2013

Paying Attention


All life can be found in the smallest details...
When recounting our life stories, it’s often the big things we recall, the momentous events, the victories or defeats, the births, deaths, and other significant occasions that are written indelibly in our memories. Yet, our daily lives are lived in a myriad of small ways. One woman I know collects mementoes of her days, little things that strike her as particularly beautiful or interesting – a perfect pinecone, a scarlet leaf, a grandchild’s drawing, a poem – and puts them in a box. When she opens the lid and looks at them, she says, they reassure her that her life is not hurrying past unnoticed. I keep a mental version of that box filled with the following:

Sunrises. I often wake before dawn. In those first quiet moments, as the dark fades slowly from the sky to reveal the familiar in a different light, I understand why we call it a new day. No two sunrises are the same, and everything looks slightly different than the day before. Watching the sun come up reminds me of the dual nature of life, its constancy and its change, and stirs in me a deep wonder.

Firsts. The first of anything is an occasion–first step, first tooth, first kiss, first time you drive the car alone, that first sip of coffee in the morning or of tea late in the afternoon, winter’s first snowflake, and likewise, the first shoots of green that brave our New England spring. When my days become mundane, I look for something I haven’t done yet, or some new way of doing a thing that’s become stale, so that there’s always a new first to look forward to.

Senses. I am often stopped in my tracks by the emotions certain sounds or scents evoke. Music pulls me out of myself, an unexpected bit of birdsong on a winter day can change my mood, the sound of laughter always lifts my spirits. I remember my delight as a child, coming home after church on a Sunday morning to the scent of roasting meat and fruit pie. Nothing makes me quite as happy as the smell of fresh earth when the snow melts in April or quite as melancholy as the scent of dying leaves in the fall.

ColorsThere is no season without its own colors. Spring and early summer paint with pastel palettes - lilac, pale yellow, soft blue. Autumn shines with a brilliance unmatched. Even when winter trees are leafless and all the ground is covered with snow, nature makes small places for my eyes to feast. The evergreens stand out greeny-black against the white, every shade of brown and gray shows off its luster where the snow has melted and the leaf matter is exposed, dawns and sunsets paint the sky in shades of crimson and purple. Cardinals and jays look like winged jewels in flight. And when the sun shines, millions of rainbows lie scattered on the snow. 

The unexpected. Sunshine when the weatherperson predicted rain, a card in the mail saying “thanks for being you,” a message on the answering machine that says, “Memere, I love you as much as the whole world!” fill me up until I spill over.

No doubt there will be many major events in my life, but it’s the small things, the everyday, every-moment times that fill my life with awe and wonder.

Thanks Hilary!

9 comments:

Hilary said...

It is indeed the small things.. they become the big things by our taking notice and remembering. Beautifully said, Pauline. For the first time in a very long time, I got out and enjoyed the sunrise around the pond, this morning. It was indeed one of those moments.

Brian Miller said...

ah its def the small things...which is why i try to capture them in my writing....the big things do stick but we lose those little fine details....def on the firsts....those are important for sure...

Judith said...

You are the Master.
No one can write observations about the World and Nature and all of us quite like you do, showing us what was always there that we never notice.
Brilliant!

Kerry said...

Lovely. All of these things bring joy to me as well. Next time somebody asks what I do with my time, I might just have to hand them a copy of your post. And I need to start up a box like your friend's!

sidhi said...



Thank you. I just wanted to know where to ship it since I know now to keep producing it




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Marc Leavitt said...

Pauline:
Your mindfulness is a pleasure worth celebrating.

rjchery said...

What a fantaastic post. You have pointed out something I knew but never really realised. It IS the small things and maybe if I take time to notice them more, life won't feel that it is racing by. Thank you

Frank Baron said...

Wise words.

If we learn to appreciate small things, life will always be full of treasures.

Pauline said...

Hilary - those moments are always around but we must make the effort to see them. It's worth the effort; you show that beautifully with your photos.

Brian - you are a master of the moment!

J - you always manage to make me feel marvelous!

Kerry - I started one, too and love looking through it now and then. Sometimes I replace things but mostly I just add stuff. I'll need a bigger box soon!

Marc - thanks!

rjchery - noticing becomes a habit like anything else and it's such an enriching one!

Frank - wise words from yourself ;)