Tag Archives: attentiveness

The City That Disappeared

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“Many years ago, on this very spot, there was a beautiful city of fine houses and inviting spaces, and no one who lived here was ever in a hurry.  The streets were full of wonderful things to see and the people would often stop to look at them.”

“Didn’t they have any place to go?” asked Milo.

“To be sure,” continued Alec; “but, as you know, the most important reason for going from one place to another is to see what’s in between, and they took great pleasure in doing just that.  Then one day someone discovered that if you walked as fast as possible and looked at nothing but your shoes you would arrive at your destination much more quickly.  Soon everyone was doing it.  They all rushed down the avenues and hurried along the boulevards seeing nothing of the wonders and beauties of their city as they went.

“No one paid any attention to how things looked, and as they moved faster and faster everything grew uglier and dirtier, and as everything grew uglier and dirtier they moved faster and faster; and at last a very strange thing began to happen.  Because nobody cared, the city slowly began to disappear.  Day by day the buildings grew fainter and fainter, and the streets faded away, until at last it was entirely invisible.  There was nothing to see at all.

“They went right on living here just as they’d always done, in the houses they could no longer see and on the streets which had vanished, because nobody had noticed a thing.  And that’s the way they have lived to this very day.”

“Hasn’t anyone told them?” asked Milo.

“It doesn’t do any good,” Alec replied, “for they can never see what they’re in too much of a hurry to look for.”

The Phantom Tollbooth, pp. 117-18

~

photo credit: Éole via photopin cc

A Thing of Beauty

Follow up from this post.

I enjoyed hearing about your things of beauty via Twitter and other means.

And mine? Turns out I got to see cherry blossoms after all, during my run this afternoon. There are several mature trees in my neighborhood. Those are beautiful in their own way; I like the darkness of the bark against the brilliant white petals. But today I was drawn to the brand new trees I saw in several yards. They were staked in the ground, with a trunk the size of my arm, with tiny twig branches sticking out the top. In fact, the branches were so puny that the weight of those pink and white petals bent them towards the ground. So the tree looked like a mushroom, or maybe a fountain of blossoms.

And I thought about people I know who are going through really tough stuff these days, especially two families I know with children suffering life-threatening illness. Both of them have shared stories just recently of the extravagant kindness of people around them. And I know what that’s like. I felt that when my father died while I was great with child. People arrived with food and cards and oil to rub my swollen pregnant feet.

That kindness can feel overwhelming, like you can’t even carry it all. It’s a kindness born of grace, a grace that’s so powerful you feel like you might break from the holy heft of it because, well, look at you, you’re thin and pale and staked to the ground for gosh sakes, because you can’t even stand on your own, let alone reciprocate or say thank you or do all those things competent people do. Yet somehow, by some miracle, you have enough strength to bear the weight of all that love that blazes with a white light.

Your Mission Today

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I have a mission for you, if you choose to accept it.

I blogged a few weeks ago about John Donohue, a Celtic philosopher and poet who inspired me to find the beauty around me, right where I am. That afternoon I picked up the girls at the bus stop and whispered to them, “I have a job for you right now. You are a detective, and you are supposed to find one beautiful thing between here and home. Don’t tell me what it is until we get home.” Caroline picked the deep red berries on the holly bush on the corner.

That’s going to be my practice again for today — to find something beautiful that I wasn’t expecting, something I might have missed if I hadn’t had my eyes wide. I was going to make a quick dash downtown to see the cherry blossoms, which are at peak right now. But it’s a yucky day so I think I’ll go Friday. That makes today’s practice a little more challenging. I’ll be working on the computer for much of the day, in my blue room, then running a quick errand before picking up the girls.

Then again, maybe it’s not so challenging after all. Just this second a friend sent me an e-mail containing a screen shot of something that she called a “miracle.” It’s her story and her miracle so I won’t say what it is, but I agree, it is miraculous. And a thing of beauty.

Sometimes it comes to you.

That was a freebie, though. I’m still going to look around for something beautiful today and I invite you to do the same. I need to look at the world that way, because right now the world is a dead black boy in Florida and mean Internet comments and a law student who was called a slut for having an opinion. The world is protesters slaughtered in Syria and dead Jewish children in Toulouse and a soldier gone mad in Afghanistan. Surely there’s more to the world than that.

Later today I’ll come back and post the beautiful thing I found. And I want to hear about your beautiful thing too.

Field Trip to the Pet Store… With Bonus Cute-Animal Video

Caroline has a 40-minute piano lesson each Monday afternoon. Her teacher’s house is just a liiiiiiiittle too far away to be worth going all the way home during it, so Margaret, James and I have found fun ways to pass the time. The regional library is close by, so we go there a lot. Another common destination is the pet store, especially when we need to stock up on Maya’s food.

It’s a cliche to say that kids are totally delighted by seemingly mundane things, but it’s true, and I’m reminded of it every time we go to the pet store. Picking out the food takes less than 10 minutes, which leaves us a lot of time to admire the ferrets, see which cats have arrived for adoption since last time, count the ball pythons, and look for Nemo and Dori amid the tanks full of tetras and baby koi. They watch the hermit crabs as intently as they do the pandas at the National Zoo.

Most of the time, the animals just do what they do, but occasionally we get a treat, something we would have missed if we’d gone right from the catfood section to the checkout: