Sunday, September 11, 2011

On Being Attentive -- One Thing

I generally think of myself as a fairly attentive guy. But then there are days I realize I've driven 22 miles to work without really noticing the road surfaces, passing sights, road construction crews, and the myriad things that line my way. I've spent the time in my head while my body took me safely along the oft traveled route.

I'm that way at other times, too -- at the office, at home, out walking in the woods. I, as a friend of mine says, "Think too much."

I miss so much of life whilst living in my head. Including God-sightings that are taking place around me, but which I rarely notice.

So I've decided to try to slow myself down, figuratively, if not literally, by taking time to pay attention. And, since there's no better time to live in the present than the present, I decided to start today.

Of course, today is, in some ways, an enormous day. It's the 10th anniversary of monstrous attacks on our nation. Attacks which changed much about the way we live. There was much opportunity to pay attention to that -- television broadcasts, news articles, and much more.

There was too much -- at least for me. So I decided that I would simplify. I decided to try to spend this day focusing on single things. To see the individual things that comprise the whole of life.

So, after Meeting for Worship this morning, I came home, put on my comfortable old jeans and boat shoes, picked up my camera, lit my pipe, and went out to pray. I often pray with my pipe and camera. The camera helps me focus. To look at the little picture. The pipe helps me tend my breathing... to slow it down.

I first wandered through Nancy's garden between the house and the barn. Autumn is on it's way and the flowers and bushes show that. I paused to look at individual flowers. To see the singles that made up the whole.

In a lesson that I guess God thought I needed, I quickly noticed that each single was multiple. Multiple stems or petals or tiny florets teaming with honeybees and butterfly. Still, I would not have noticed the bees and flutterbys had I not looked at individual flowers.

I made my way out onto the prairie. The big blue stem grass is dying, bending low. Coneflowers, asters, iron weed, goldenrod are feeding the thousands of insects. Each individual plant contained its own unique beauty and each contributed to the diversity of and beauty of the prairie as a whole. The loss of one black eyed Susan would have diminished the landscape.

Walking quietly, pausing to focus and shoot, I head bees buzzing, butterflies' whispering wings, small animals scampering through the prairie, and birds calling warnings to and about me.

Moving into the woods, larger animals moved away from me. Deer? Coyote? I had my glasses off as I focused on clover blooms in my path, so I have no idea. Being near-sighted does help one focus on the singular that is close by.

Autumn's approach was apparent in the woods, as well. How to see that story? A photograph of the entire woods is too much with too little detail. A picture of one dying leaf is all that is needed. The special Fall scent that fallen leaves send up as they lay on the ground, filling with raindrops from a passing shower, and then drying in sun that comes out. I looked at many of them ... one at time. I slung my camera over my shoulder -- its work was done. Now I was just here to look at things one by one by one.

My pipe went out, the tobacco all gone. It was nearly lunch time, so I headed back up to the house. Walking back through the prairie, I continued to look a single flowers, grasses, leaves on the path. A light rain began to fall. I watched the individual rain drops darken my shirt with their moisture, alight on stalk of big blue stem.

I noticed my breathing was nice and slow. My mind was full... but not of the usual chatter that goes on there. Instead it was full of wonder and beauty of that which I was walking through and participating in.

It was one of the singular walks of my life.

-- Brent

1 comment:

Tom Smith said...

On being attentive on 9/11 also means to me that as I mourn and grieve for the lives lost in New York, DC, and PA, the vividness of the bombing of Baghdad a couple of years later still sticks in my memory. Part of the "vividness" and singularity of that memory is that "this time" those bombs and this destruction were being done in "my name." It was bombs paid for by "my taxes." In addition, there was no evidence that the Iraqis, including Saddam, had been responsible for 9/11/2001.

In paying attention to single things, we sometimes stumble on "truth."