spencedaniel

Dreams really do come true. Keep dreaming!

Paying Attention

Something has been on my mind ever since I read the book, The Fiddler in the Subway, by Gene Weingarten. While the book contains twenty stories originally featured in the Washington Post, the story of a world-class violinist playing in a Washington D.C. subway for pocket change really got me wondering about paying attention.

I’m definitely a detail oriented person, but I still can’t help wondering if I would have been one of the few people who actually stopped to listen or even notice that something truly remarkable was happening in my presence? Or would I have been like the majority of passersby who were just too busy and engrossed in their busy lives and tight schedules, or important destinations, or some program or message or conversation on my phone that I couldn’t take the time to be truly present for what was a magical and possibly once in a lifetime happening?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if something or someone was always standing by to alert us to moments too important or precious to miss? Sometimes we have the foresight to grab a camera or a cell phone and freeze a moment forever in time to share with others. Sometimes we just stop and watch and experience it fully without any gizmos and gadgets. Then later it will be only the story or our words that we share.

This past Mother’s Day I spent the weekend with my daughter and son-in-law. While they were at work, I enjoyed time with my sister, who at the end of our day together sent me home with a bundle of freshly cut lilacs from her alley bush. I gently set the flowers on the front seat of the car and their lovely distinctive fragrance filled the air. It was almost like taking spring for a ride. My daughter happens to adore lilacs and was tickled with the overflowing bouquet. She quickly found an old canning jar that I’m sure had once held pickles and happily placed the thirsty flowers into water. A short time later I passed by the kitchen doorway and caught sight of the setting sun coming through the tableside window. As the sunlight glistened and shimmered through the lavender petals and jar of water it created a masterpiece reflected on the table. I immediately grabbed my camera and snapped. In an instant it was gone.

Sun and Lilacs Meet - photo by Susan Spence Daniel

Sun and Lilacs Meet                                                                   photo by Susan Spence Daniel

Sometimes I’m so caught up in the events or moments of life; I don’t even think to take a picture. That happens to me a lot when I’m visiting with family and friends. When I want to cement a memory, regardless if I’m with someone or all alone, I pay extra close attention to every nuance and sight and sound. I absorb the details, including breathing in any aroma and smell I am aware of and then I tuck it away so the memory becomes a part of me and my story.

Last Christmas Eve as I drove to the Twin Cities in the wee morning hours, I stopped at a rest stop along the interstate near Black River Falls. As I walked along the sidewalk I noticed a sort of phenomenon on the frozen ground. For as far as I could see, every burnt amber and rusty brown and crisp burgundy leaf leftover from autumn was completely outlined in what looked like a frosty dew. I know snow well and it wasn’t snow. As I knelt down to get a closer look, I saw that what surrounded the leaves was actually miniature clusters of ice crystals. I surveyed the area around me. Except for the concrete sidewalk and road, the ground resembled a wall to wall carpet of late fall colors scattered like Christmas presents under all the evergreen and pine and bare oak branches. I was captivated. Other travelers were coming and going in cars and vehicles loaded with gifts and I wanted to shout out to everyone who could hear me to stop and check out the magic at their feet. But I didn’t. In all my 59 years, I’ve never seen anything like it.

Minutes later I returned to my interstate travels. It was when I was countless miles past the rest stop, still sorting through the breathtaking wonder of what I’d just witnessed, that I realized I hadn’t taken a photo. I couldn’t believe it. I’ve taken hundreds of photos of ridiculous and insignificant things and never once needed to go back and look at those pictures, and here was something I was sure I’d never get to see again and I didn’t photograph it. To me it was like a Christmas miracle, a God moment. I sang His praises and gave thanks for all the beauty and wonders of nature for most of the remainder of my trip.

Even as I write these words, I’m still grateful for the memory and that I was able to capture it anyway. I can easily and vividly conjure up that splendid morning and without a photo to guide me, I’m able to see exactly how those leaves were outlined one on top of each other on their frozen resting place, for all to see or maybe just for whoever was paying attention.

This past weekend while attending a family reunion in central Wisconsin, I was having breakfast with about 20 assorted family members at a small café only a few blocks from where we used to live. There were hand painted murals on every wall of the restaurant, and I do mean every wall. After breakfast several nieces and my daughter were commenting and laughing about the strange man painted on the women’s bathroom wall behind the door. Now I’d been in the women’s restroom and I’d quickly glanced at that same image they were talking about. I mentioned that I thought it had kind of resembled Jesus. They went nuts. They asked when Jesus became a smoker or how a creepy peeping Tom smoking a cigarette could look like Jesus to me.

I was dumbfounded. What peeping Tom? What cigarette? They sent me back to the bathroom and instructed me to take a photo of the wall. I did as I was told and laughed the whole way back to the table. I obviously hadn’t been paying attention when I’d first left the ladies’ room or I’d only taken a super quick glance of the wall. I’m including a close up shot and then the whole smoking scene for you to make your own opinion.

What I Saw the First Time

What I Saw the First Time

What I Saw on My Second Visit

What I Saw on My Second Visit

It’s rather strange someone would choose to paint that particular image in a WOMEN’S bathroom? I’m fairly confident I’m going to be kidded about this mural and my rather unobservant perception of it for quite some time.

The next time I find myself smack dab in the middle of a magical one-of-a-kind moment that either takes my breath away, leaves me in absolute awe and wonder, or makes me a little giggly, I hope at least I’m paying attention. Because regardless if I have a camera or cell phone in hand, or a sketch book or absolutely nothing at all, I don’t want to miss out on any wonder-filled amazing one-of-a-kind moments in my life.

I certainly don’t want to miss the hilarious or silly or ridiculous ones either. I wish the same thing for you too.

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14 comments on “Paying Attention

  1. Diane Scheurell
    July 29, 2016

    Thank you Susan, for your ability to bring these images to life even without photos.

    • spencedaniel
      August 1, 2016

      You’re welcome, Diane. Thank you for your kind words.

  2. Diane Hensley
    July 29, 2016

    Your perspective helps me cherish each and every moment of life! Thank you Sue!

    • spencedaniel
      August 1, 2016

      Oh Diane, I’m so glad. I’m touched by your words.

  3. Angie Johnson
    July 31, 2016

    That is so funny. We have talked about that same guy in the bathroom. I laughed when you took a picture of what you saw. Because I saw a Spanish man with snicker while I’m in a bathroom. Thank you for a your story. I will try to slow down and check out the wonders I’m passing everyday.

    • spencedaniel
      August 1, 2016

      Slowing down is always a good thing. Thanks for stopping by and for sharing your words, Angie. Your comment made me smile.

  4. Pam Turner
    July 31, 2016

    Love your blog….and the man is not creepy at all. He’s admiring who ever is there.

    • spencedaniel
      August 1, 2016

      Thanks, Pam! I so appreciate your words. I can also see we are coming from the same perspective on that mural.

  5. Jill Fletcher
    July 31, 2016

    I thoroughly enjoy your rich commentary on life! Like you, I work hard at being in the moment and experiencing life for all it has to offer. I am always sad to see folks failing to connect personally and missing “the moment” because they are so engrossed in their technology. Okay, sorry to steal your soap box! ; ) I look forward to your blogs! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • spencedaniel
      August 1, 2016

      Jill, you didn’t steal my soap box – there’s plenty of room… I’m truly touched by your words and so grateful you enjoy and follow my blog. Thank You!

  6. Leslie York
    August 1, 2016

    Sue, your story made me smile. I love hearing your perspective on life. I need to slow down more often to see the beauty all around me. Thanks for sharing.

    • spencedaniel
      August 1, 2016

      Leslie, I love when my words bring a smile (or a tear) or spread a bit of inspiration. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your words too.

  7. Joan
    August 2, 2016

    Ah…another blog post! You hit the nail right on the head on this one, Sue! Love it!! Thank you for this!

    • spencedaniel
      August 2, 2016

      You’re welcome, Joan. I appreciate your comment. I so love getting feedback.

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