Eye level.

June 18, 2018 § 4 Comments

So much of what we consider important is based on scale.

Full-grown, we are generally in the 5’-6’ range.

We do not fly, so human eye level is our perpetual vantage point.

Those living things that are larger than we are, and there aren’t many, are viewed at that eye level. We see the trunk, but have to make a conscious effort to lean back and peer up into the crown of a tree.

Sure, we see full trees as distance brings them down to eye level, but distance obscures, generalizes.

To see, really see a tree…well…I suppose you would have to climb it, get up to tree-eye level. « Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

The second age of wonder.

April 22, 2018 § 5 Comments

When we are young and new to life everything we encounter is unexpected, interesting, inexplicable, mesmerizing.

We live in a constant state of wonder.

The discovery we have hands, that water can splash, that sand yields to toes, that faces that vanish come back in response to the magic word “peekaboo,” that grasshoppers hop, all amaze us.

In our early years wonder has our full attention.

Time passes and the kid gets cool. Wonder, as available as ever, is often met with a shrug, a quick glance. Wonder requires us to stop. Stare. Forget everything else.

Frankly, we are too busy for wonder. We’ve seen it all before. Unless it comes with huge pyrotechnics we put any potential source of wonder on the slag heap of been-there-done-that.

As if it were an illness, we have built up an immunity to wonder.

But as we get old wonder comes slowly back. It catches our eye, briefly at first, but over time our attention turns inexorably toward it, until wonder pervades almost everything we do, see, hear, taste, feel, think. My husband says it is as if wonder invites us back in. Or maybe we are the ones who issue that invitation.

All I know is that sometimes wonder is so present I can almost fly on its wings.

Why? « Read the rest of this entry »

If all you have is a hammer.

March 2, 2018 § 4 Comments

As the physical therapist was teaching me an exercise to relieve the weird pains in my upper back I mentioned that years ago a surgeon had offered to fuse three vertebrae.

“Of course you won’t be able to raise and lower your head,” he’d said. “And you could be paralyzed from the neck down, but the chance is very slim.”

I thanked him and got out of his office fast.

“You know why he recommended surgery?” asked the physical therapist.

“Why?”

“Because he’s a surgeon.”

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

The physical therapist, a man who wielded a different hammer, offered me a simple stretching exercise to fix the same problem. And it has.

« Read the rest of this entry »

One word for the New Year.

December 30, 2017 § 7 Comments

 

Growing up, New Year’s Eve meant eating chili on the couch, watching the ball drop, and each of us declaring to my mother (the family scribe) our New Year’s resolutions.

All were recorded in an innocuous notebook with a cover the color of dried peas.

If we didn’t make them for ourselves, she did. My father’s made-for-him resolution every year? Lose ten pounds.

Mine was usually to be less scatter-brained.

Looking at that book I see one made in high school, definitely by me: to sing as well as Judy Collins.

No one in the family lived up to those vows, no matter who had made them. From the get-go I knew this was a system that broke down somewhere between plan and execution.

But after leaving home I still made resolutions in a notebook of my own:

Write 25 songs, paint the living room, finish the novel.

The resolutions are numbered and everything.

« Read the rest of this entry »

The Great Christmas Dispensation.

December 21, 2017 § Leave a comment

Welcome to the blessed season of the universal excuse:

“I won’t be able to ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­__________ because it’s Christmas.”

We fabricate and tender excuses all year long. I won’t be able to _________ because I am getting married.

I have the flu.

My car broke down.

My kid is sick.

Even when our excuse is legitimate, we feel as if we are shirking, because all around us the hum of busy people doing busy things reminds us that we are not keeping up!

Except at Christmas.

If we can resist the urge to wrap everything in sight in shiny paper, resist the premise that love requires lavish gift giving.  If we can recognize the act of kindness on the part of the calendar and a long ago birth, we can, all of us together…

take a deep breath…

and look around as if we have just awakened from a relentless, whirring dream.

Because we have. « Read the rest of this entry »

What you wish for.

December 2, 2017 § 4 Comments

Be careful what you wish for is the familiar saying.

It is a pessimist’s warning, delivered with a frown.

Getting what you wish for is sure to disappoint!

Or bite you on the butt.

You’re better off with the known, the as-is, the just-okay.

But that doesn’t stop us from wishing for the long shot, the impossible, the rainbow. It is why we buy a lottery ticket.

We spend hours imagining what isn’t, and often what can never be.

But why?

Perhaps we are testing the boundary between the possible and the impossible. Maybe that line is chalk, and maybe it can be scuffed out with the sole of a sneaker, a new one drawn in. Who knows?

« Read the rest of this entry »

Respect for the small.

November 4, 2017 § 2 Comments

rubber bandsA single paper clip.

A sheet of paper, one side clean.

The heel of a loaf of bread.

A handful of rubber bands.

What are they worth?

They’re not worth the trouble of storing them until needed.

Not worth the effort or ingenuity required to put them to use right now.

So, without thought, we default to the easiest solution. We toss them in the trash.

This cavalier treatment of the small-but-useful object is not a constant when it comes to human behavior, but it has held steady for quite a while in this period of prolonged bounty.

Here is an adage that expressed our relationship with small but useful objects during the Great Depression:

Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.

If there were a saying that summed up our treatment of the objects in our lives today, it would surely end with, “throw it out.” « Read the rest of this entry »