I read a magazine article which said that happiness comes from the ability to focus on something that gives us pleasure, absorb it, and then savor it.
As I see it, there are three problems with that. The focusing, the absorbing and the savoring.
In the panoply of life, how does one focus? How does one slow the inner car that speeds along city streets, traverses dinners with friends, walks with the dog, fields trips to the post box? We are used to the broad sweep. The big story. The executive topline. Not the close-up.
Absorb? We don’t have the time. Or take the time.
I was walking my dog Rosie down our driveway. Normally following the cinders and potholes that mark the season and the path in front of me. Watching Rosie, but little else. When a tree caught my eye. Probably an ash. Sort of like a tree you’d see dancing in “The Wizard of Oz”. Up the side was a zipper of small holes. Eight of them. Not big enough to live in, but not insignificant. Probably made by a woodpecker….carving a high rise. Why? Why not keep pecking the same hole? Did he start at the top or the bottom?
I remember that funny tree. The only thing I can recall from that walk. I savored the memory. I guess because I was now part of its story.
But how many stories was I missing because I was too busy to notice. Painting my days only with a broad brush stroke.
How often do we go to dinner and afterwards not remember what our friend was wearing? What we were wearing. What the dishes looked like. The photos on the wall. The people sitting next to us.
If we had to make a list of what we saw driving back from the grocery store, how many of us could get to ten?
Even if we did, that’s just the seeing. Not the absorbing. And certainly not the savoring.
The savoring is what feeds us.
It’s not just seeing the tree with the holes when you’re walking your dog. It’s really looking. How deep are the holes? What color is the bark? The ferns underfoot? If you squint your eyes can you see the woodpecker? If you look left, are there more trees with holes? Taking it in, so that moment, that disclosure, is part of you. You are fed.
What about the people around you? Do you really look at them? Do any of us do that?
Do I truly see my husband anymore? I’m not sure I do.
Do I see him looking at me? Legs crossed. Head cocked to the side. Does he have eyelashes? Could I describe his chin? The lines in his face? I envy the painter that studies his subject. But does the painter absorb? Savor? Really take in and register what they are seeing? Or do they just focus?
As the article tells us, I believe that I will find greater happiness if I can live in the moments of my life. Focus, absorb, savor.
But that will not be easy.
Can we ever truly savor the experience of what we are seeing? Let ourselves feel its story as we see it?
Or, perhaps, like the painting, does that only come when the canvas is hung and the oils are put away?
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