On Sunday we went to the Arboretum and walked out to Foster and Marsh Islands. Jack climbed trees, Jane threw rocks into the creek and watched the ripples circle out to the shore, and the twins toddled around getting their hands and pantlegs muddy.
Doug and I snapped photos; he with his phone, I with my Nikon. I had my 85mm lens, which worked great for taking pictures of Jack up in the branches of a tree. But it’s not a macro lens, so I couldn’t get the close-ups of flowers and leaves that I wanted.
And I really wanted them. As I looked at the buds on the bushes and the white faces of the daisies in the grass, that Georgia O’Keefe line kept going through my head:
Nobody sees a flower, really; it is so small. We haven’t time—and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.
Every leaf, every flower, the shine of birch trunks in the sunlight, the orange and yellow and red branches of budding willows among tawny dry rushes along the shore of the lake: I tried to look. I tried to see.
And these children that ran and scampered and shrieked ahead of me on the trail: I tried to see them, too, to take the time to notice the light striking the side of Jack’s face and the way his eyes nearly disappear when he grins big and to answer his random questions and listen to his hyperbolical imaginings of narrow escapes from mortal danger.
It’s so easy to tune him out, to listen to the siren song of self instead, to get lost in my own thoughts and imaginings and forget to pay attention to him, to the beauty around me.
This is especially hard because I find myself endlessly fascinating. But the more I stop my lifelong navel-gazing habit and look around and actually see what surrounds me, the more my endlessly fascinating self loses its vicelike grip on me.
As I look and see, I find there are things in the world—even people—that are at least as interesting as I am. Some of them are more interesting! Who knew?
Georgia O’Keefe was right: I don’t see a flower, really, because to see takes time, time focused on something other than me. To have friend (or a child) takes time, too, time focused on someone who isn’t me.
Sunday, I took time. I looked at the yellow-eyed daisies in the grass, at the pale green leaves unfurling on trees whose names I do not know, at the cottony white buds on straggly branches in the marsh.
I looked at Jack. At Jane. At Doug. At Luke and Ben.
And I took photos, because I knew that the siren song of me would quickly drown out whatever attention I had turned outward, would draw it back in, and I would forget how white petals thickly fringed the yellow eyes of the daisies; how Jane slipped her warm hand into my cold one and squeezed it three times and smiled at me, her blue eyes dancing as happily as her skipping feet; how Jack and I fingered the soft buds of the cottonwoods while above us gulls rode the thermals in the achingly blue bowl of the sky.
First Fridays are for numbering a few more of the endless gifts I receive when I take the time to look and see:
2453. Cherry blossoms.
2454. The God-who-is-with-us. I am never alone.
2455. Camellia blooms, bright pink against the gray morning.
2456. Clouds in the east, simultaneously pale-dark blue.
2457. Gray-green lichen speckling the fig tree’s trunk.
2458. Luke’s adorable squunch-nose smile.
2459. Reading great writing aloud to Jack, Jane, and Doug in the evenings.
2461. A black-capped chickadee pecking in quick nervous jerks at a dried fig on the tree—then up and away it flew.
2462. The way the boys talk to each other: in squawks and shouts and oohs and ahhs and ohs and the occasional mmmm.
2463. Sun-edged clouds over the ship canal.
2464. Ten days and still no sign of our mouse. (Thank you, thank you, thank you, Lord!)
Won’t you please join me in counting the gifts? You can head over to A Holy Experience and join Ann Voskamp’s gratitude community. Or you can just start your own list: grab whatever paper is closest and whatever writing utensil you can reach, and start naming and numbering the gifts. It will change your life. (And if you do begin a gift list, would you please let me know?)