As it has for many of us, my world has grown smaller in the last few weeks. We aren’t under a shelter in place order here in Arizona (yet), but the number of coronavirus cases is rising rapidly, and most public facilities are either closed or restricted.
Like most Gen-Xers, I’m good at entertaining myself. I also know how to cook, and I enjoy time at home, away from people. But still, having to be home for an extended period of time can get monotonous, even for an introverted librarian/writer like me. And so I’m consciously looking for ways to improve the experience.
Sunday afternoon, my husband and I took a walk in the Coconino National Forest near our home. We lingered in the woods, taking pictures of interesting tree trunks,
smelling the sharp scent of Ponderosa pine, and admiring the patterns of lichen on boulders.
We admired a baby pine sprouting beside a stump, life from death, the promise of hope and rebirth in this strange, dark time.
We spent way too much time studying a mysterious glob of melted plastic, likely a remnant of the 2010 forest fire, the scars of which still mar these mountains nearly a decade after the fact.
We discovered a tiny cactus peeking through the pine needles on the forest floor.
In other words, we noticed things.
Little things. Unglamorous things. Things we’d normally cruise right past with little more than a passing glance–if we looked at them at all. But our world is smaller now, and the pace of our lives has slowed to a crawl. There’s time now to see, to take in, to notice.
Many years ago, I signed up for a drawing class at a community college. I’d never been able to draw even a decent-looking stick figure, but I let myself be talked into taking a drawing class.
I plead temporary insanity.
On the first night, the professor heard me whine, “I can’t draw!” He came up to me, studied me with crinkled, professorial eyes, and informed me of the following:
“Your problem isn’t that you don’t know how to draw. It’s that you don’t know how to see.”
He had us draw our own closed fist. And I found myself studying the details of my own hand, the lines, the curves, the creases and whorls, and reproducing them on a page in a sketch pad. The result would win no prizes in an art show, but it was recognizably a hand.
I had drawn a hand. A real hand.
With my own hand.
That old professor had been right. Sort of. I knew how to see, but I’d never taken the time to notice. To really look at something in its minute detail. To shut out all the distractions and busy-ness of the world and focus on a single, simple thing and see the magic in it.
I’ve carried that lesson with me these last thirty-some years. Oh, I forget it often enough. I let busy-ness crowd out magic, I run on the hamster wheel of life and berate myself for not doing more, better, faster. Work more, write more, make more money, do more laundry, why is the house such a mess and the garden full of weeds and my body out of shape and…
Hard to make room for magic in all that doing.
But on Sunday I made room for that magic. Amid the fear and the disruption and the absurd shortage of toilet paper, I made room for magic. For wonder. For joy.
I took the time to notice–and found healing and peace in that noticing.