When something does not insist on being noticed, when we aren’t grabbed by the collar or struck on the skull by a presence or an event, we take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude. -Cynthia Ozick-
Do you think that statement is true? Is it only the loud, the noisy, the flashy, the big that get our attention? Is it only those that deserve our attention? If our life is not full of the big and flashy, is it an unimportant life?
28 days ago I decided to consciously look at the small, the ordinary, the quiet, as things that deserve to be noticed, deserve to be appreciated, and then magnify those things, write about them, photograph them, so I and others could look at them in maybe a different way. I wanted to see if I could learn to love and appreciate my life more once I became more aware of the small, amazing, and beautiful parts that make up the whole.
I think it’s working. Some days I thought I had absolutely nothing to write about, and then I started looking around, noticing. I started thinking about the people and places in my life and seeing the good and precious things about them. I’ve known several people who have died during this 28 days or become very ill, and it’s made me want to enjoy and be grateful for each ordinary day.
As I pulled over to the side of the road yesterday to look at this scene, I thought to myself that it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. The cows, the water, the grass, the sky – it really seemed heavenly to me. It was so peaceful, so serene. There might have been a time in my life when I would have driven right by it, scarcely noticing. Or I might have thought “There are some cows close to the road, that’s unusual”. The scene yesterday just drew me in, almost as if I was part of it. Maybe that’s what nature does – it draws you in and, in turn, you draw peace and strength and beauty out of it to enhance your own life.
Alex Grey said “It is very easy to take for granted the phenomenon that we are each alive.” Of course it is. Sometimes we become so aware of struggle, pain, questions that all we can think about is how to get those questions answered, how to deal with the pain, how to get out of the struggle. When our attention is solely on the struggle, sometimes we need someone or something to show us that there’s more. If the things we put our attention on grow bigger, sometimes some of the struggle is lessened by focusing on what’s good and what’s right. My heart goes out to people who have chronic, physical pain and disability. I think some people were put on earth to ease pain and lessen other’s burdens, and I’m thankful for that and for new treatments that help people with pain. I also think that nature is a healer in many ways for all of us, and, while it can’t take away all pain, it can make it more bearable.
So, is it aging that gets us to wake up, to want to get all the magic and beauty out of the rest of our lives that we can? Maybe, but I’ve known many older folks that were still quite asleep to the marvels all around them and had pretty much resigned themselves to a life of “quiet desperation”. And I’ve known younger people who were determined to make the most of each day and were able to see grace all around them. I think it’s more about making the decision not to let life slip past you, not to let it go by unnoticed.
There’s nothing wrong with the big and flashy. It’s fun for some people to make a celebration or a special event “over the top”. We can make things special by the care and attention we give to them, and some people excel at that so the rest of us can enjoy them. Life is made of ups and downs, big and little. Maybe the point is to be there for all of it, to avoid taking anything for granted, and to remember that there really are no little things because when you put them all together, they make up the days of our lives.