Thursday, June 28, 2012
Learning to find the 'magic' in the mundane
My most recent Life Lines column:
By Mary DeTurris Poust
I was on the train this weekend, heading to Manhattan from my home near Albany, lost in the music on my iPod and the crossword puzzle in my lap, when I looked up for a moment. There, sliding by my window, was the Hudson River, dotted with a couple of kayaks and a lone fisherman, all set against a backdrop of the Catskill Mountains. For the briefest second, the scene took my breath away.
So often when I think of beautiful scenery, I imagine the majesty of the Rocky Mountains or the pounding surf of the Atlantic Ocean or the natural beauty of some other far-off place that requires a flight, maybe even a passport. But on this particular Sunday morning, I was reminded of an awesome reality: I am surrounded by natural beauty right where I am right now. And so are you, no matter what the view from your current window.
I am lucky enough to live in a place edged by mountains on three sides – Adirondack, Berkshire, Catskill. Whenever I return home from a trip in almost any direction, I feel my breathing slow and my shoulders relax as soon as “my” mountains come into view. But lately I’m starting to realize that even without the mountain backdrop, my everyday life is filled with small moments of natural beauty, from the bleeding heart flowers hanging just so from a delicate branch in my backyard bed to the yellow finch sitting quietly on the birdfeeder to the raindrops tapping against the leaves of the oak trees that tower over our house. Even a butterfly flitting through a mall parking lot can be cause for celebration, if we can learn to look at the world with the eyes of wonder. Not sure how to do that? Think about how a 4-year-old sees things, and then try to do the same.
The afternoon of my Amtrak aha! moment, I was sitting in a Broadway theater watching Mary Poppins with my daughter’s Girl Scout troop, when the little girl in front of me – caught up in the dazzling scenery stunts – looked up at her mom and said, “Is she really magical?” I couldn’t help but smile at her innocent joy and wish I could recapture that feeling for myself, although I came pretty close as I smiled from ear to ear when Mary Poppins “flew” overhead at the end of the show.
In our stress-filled modern lives, it’s easy to get caught in a place somewhere between worry and dread, a mental state where we’re constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. I have to admit that even as I headed out for what promised to be a fabulous day with my daughter, there was a part of me that wished I could just skip it, not because I don’t like to have fun but because I felt anxious about all the things I “should” be doing instead. Sometimes I get so focused on what’s coming up that I miss what’s happening now.
As our train rattled back toward Albany at the end the day, the girls were giddy with excitement when they should have been exhausted. From the seats behind us they sang songs, took pictures, played games, and just generally infused our otherwise somber train car with energy and silliness. Every once in a while I’d look back and shush my daughter, worrying she might be bothering another passenger, but the truth is that her obvious and infectious happiness was just what the rest of us needed.
Whether you’re on a beach staring out at the ocean or in an office watching the sun set over a high-rise cityscape, there are opportunities for breathtaking joy at every turn. Look at your world with the eyes of a 4-year-old today, and you, too, may find yourself asking, “Is it really magical?” As it turns out, yes, it is. It’s magical and miraculous and magnificent, even when it’s mundane, even when it’s something you’ve seen a hundred times before. See for yourself.
Posted by Mary DeTurris Poust at 9:48 AM