In the last few weeks, I have had several all day classes. I discovered a lovely route to take a walk along a road with a lot of plants and trees, and I’ve been enjoying the restoration I experience walking mindfully through that beauty. This weekend, I did the same. I noticed after about 10 minutes, though, that I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings like I had done before. They weren’t new anymore, and they didn’t automatically make me notice them.
I decided to be intentional about it. Last time, I was highly mindful of all the growing things, and they were lovely again, but what caught my attention once I encouraged myself to be curious were the things that were placed by human hands.
I saw many remnants of recent 4th of July celebration, including small flags, one that was placed carefully with two sticks formed into a cross. I saw another duct taped to a pole, and another staking claim to a small island of dirt in a parking lot sea. Another was a paper plate carefully placed to anoint a hedge as United States territory.
I noticed an office building patio area that brought to mind prayer labyrinths in the pattern of the concrete.
I noticed a stop sign that had been vanquished as if it were vampiric with a stake through its heart. On the back of the steak was the word “AMEN!” and a symbol reminiscent of the seal of St. Benedict. I’m still curious about that one.
I noticed–not for the first time–the Mormon temple across the interstate, and the juxtaposition of the temple and the freeway felt possibly like few things could be more iconically American.
There was a utility box with a painted bow tie, and a huddle of traffic cones that seemed to be alerting the world of each other as potential hazards, or perhaps they cowered in fear at the hazards all around them and sought safety in numbers. Some extremely thorough no parking signs protected a puzzlingly unreachable parking spot.
I amused myself, found humor in the ordinary, and most of all, I was present to the small details (and large) of the world around me. I am practicing learning to do that more consistently. I found that being ready to take pictures helped me.
How do you/can you encourage yourself to be more present, to notice the small things, to live in curiosity and gratitude and joy?