23. Noticing the Little Things - and the Big Ones Too!
I happened to have the privilege recently of sitting in and watching an artist demonstrating using water colours, and as he painted he gave a running commentary. At one point he commented that he had found himself somewhere and was captivated by the clouds. He spoke fervently about the wonder of the shades of colour and I came away thinking, “I really must take more notice of this world.”
I have this picture of one of these days popping my clogs (not for a while yet I hope) and facing my Maker and He smiles benignly at me and says, “Did you see that sunset two nights back?” and I shamefacedly bow my head and mutter, “No, I was watching TV Lord.” “Well how about beauties of those woods you and your wife were walking in last week?” Again I hang my head and quietly confess, “I’m afraid I was too busy arguing with her to notice them.” Ooops!
My wife tells me that she’s rubbish at noticing things and when she says what she missed, I tend to agree - she’s rubbish at noticing what is going on around her - but I’m not a lot better. I think if I had my time again, one of the things I would change is that I would try to be more observant.
I can’t remember if I told you in a previous article (but it bears repeating and at our age you’re allowed to do that!), but a year or so back my wife and I went on a cruise up the North Sea to Norway. To fill in time we went to a talk on “Birds of the North Sea.” This was a day and a half into the cruise and when the speaker spoke about one particular bird and commented, “I think we’ve probably seen about a thousand of them since we set off,” I thought, “There are birds out here?” From then on we were looking with different eyes.
If we go shopping in Southend, my wife worries what she looks like and what colour shoes she ought to be wearing, and I think “Shoes? You’re wearing shoes? Who’s going to notice what colour shoes you’re wearing?” So sometimes this not taking any notice does work to the good.
I actually think I have a great capacity for enjoyment. I really enjoy food - any food! I really enjoy books (not all) and many plays and films. I enjoy people and I enjoy going out and just walking. At this time of the year Hockley Woods is going to put on it’s Autumn Show as the leaves change colour and then fall in numbers. A week or so back we found ourselves in Fambridge (not having been there for a number of years) and we just sat on the wall of the Crouch and looked and said nothing. It was a blue sky evening, there was a gentle breeze, all the moored boats swung in one direction and peace reigned. We just looked and looked and listened and listened. It was a vision of total serenity only broken by what must have been fish plopping out of the shallows every few minutes below us. As we walked back to our car we listened for the occasional bird sounds. Little sounds of pleasure.
We don’t have a particularly big garden, bigger than some no doubt, but I delight in just sitting on a bench three quarters of the way down the patch, either early morning or just before dusk and watching and listening. There is more life out there than we realise. I’m not sure if anyone else in our family has spotted the toadstools hidden among the grass that have appeared in the past week. I must point them out to the grandchildren when they are next down there, and warn them not to pick them. Every now and then we get a beautiful dragon fly come over the fence from next door’s Koy Carp pool. Amazing! I think I’ve commented in the past about getting up in the middle of a sleepless night for a cup of tea but leaving the lights off so the stars on a clear night create a fresh sense of awe in me.
So why, if I’m pretty good at observing these sorts of things do I miss it when my daughter comes in with two of the grandchildren and she’s had her hair done in a different way. To be fair, I’m sitting there with something in the back of my mind going, “There’s something different in the room, but what is it?” I’m also rubbish at spotting when my wife is wearing a new jumper or skirt or whatever, but I think that’s just because I can’t keep up with her spending, and it’s better not to. Another one of those things it’s better not to notice, I conclude - but she still expects me to notice and so stands there and says, “Well?” “Very nice,” I reply automatically and safely. If I’m feeling like living on the edge, I may tentatively enquire, “When did you get it?” “Two months ago,” comes the reply, “I just couldn’t wait any longer to get a comment from you!”
I think I might prefer my audience in heaven because if I missed the sunset, I might pop in, “But the view over the Crouch was brilliant.” I think I’m better than I used to be, but I’ve still got some way to go. I was once walking alone, quietly beside a lake in some wooded area of East Sussex and for some reason, just stopped and stood there absolutely still for several minutes. It was as if the sound had suddenly been turned on. Suddenly I was aware of the immense variety of life in the bushes or trees around me and in the lake in front of me. I wonder if we miss so much of this ‘life’ around us in everyday living, either because we’re too busy, or we have our minds on worries of life, or we simply don’t expect to see and hear things? Still, it’s never too late - until we have that heavenly encounter that is. I think I’ll just wander off down the garden if you don’t mind, and practise this stuff.
Quote: “Self-observation brings man to the realization of the necessity of self-change. And in observing himself, a man notices that self-observation in itself brings about certain changes in his inner processes. He begins to understand that self-observation is an instrument of self-change, a means of awakening.”