Spring came late to Portland this year. And as I've done every spring since I moved to my current home, I've eagerly watched for the camellia bush outside my kitchen window to bloom. Since it is on the north side of the building, it is usually the last to bloom. So as its sisters on the south side burst into lovely colors and smells, I stepped up watching for 'my' camellia to bloom. As the month passed, there were absolutely no flowers on it. It must have been trimmed at the wrong time last year, because there was not a single bud on the entire plant. I kept watching and watching, no camellias. I was so focused on the camellias that I almost missed out entirely on the azalea that is planted right next to it. It wasn't until the roses started rioting across the back fence that I turned my attention away from the camellia and its lack of flowers this year.
And this in turn made me consider what else I have missed while focused too closely on something else. The short answer is that I'll probably never know for certain. But it bears some examination so as to reduce the occurrence of it in the future. Like most people, I've spent the majority of my adulthood wrapped up in whatever task/person/event demanded my attention at the time, to the point of shutting out even the idea that other things could or should merit some of my attention as well.
I've been a master at missing the obvious most of my life. If I had a dollar for every time someone said, "it's as plain as the nose on your face," or "if it had been a snake, it would have bit you," I'd never need to work a day in my life. And that is not counting the times I have heard, "how could you not know?" I was always too busy trying to be a good daughter/mother/wife/friend to even recognize other possibilities that would have enriched my life if I'd but welcomed them in. There are a few huge ones that come to mind and I'm sure there must be dozens of others.
And don't get me started on the more subtle possibilities that I have let pass me by. They must number in the hundreds, if not thousands. I'm fairly blind as far as subtle things going on in my own life, my own possibilities. Which is odd because I tend to recognize the subtleties that occur for other people around me. The standard joke with me is that I wouldn't catch a hint if it hit me upside the head with a two-by-four. I suspect this might be a by-product of focusing on one thing and missing another. But part of it must be due to my preference for directness. So, what's to be done?
I'm happy to report that I've gotten better about noticing/recognizing some things that come into my life unexpectedly. I'm not to the level of awareness that I hope to achieve, however. And I don't think it is necessary to throw the baby of specific focus out with the bathwater in trying to open myself up to more possibilities and realities. The trick must lie in balancing the two, the question is how. I suspect that it demands a shifting of focus, a more deliberate observation of what is happening both around me and within me. Not focusing on the forest or the trees, but on both in a constant moving back and forth. It requires considerable discipline to avoid sleepwalking through life, to live deliberately and wide awake.
My long observation of the camellia wasn't for naught, however. For the first time since I have been watching it, I noticed that a song sparrow kept hopping along my window sill. And as the weather grew warmer, I saw that she was using the sill as a launching pad into the bush. Once it was warm enough to open the windows, there were delightful baby bird noises coming from it. So, my focus may have been misdirected for awhile, but there were rewards anyway. As there always seem to be, if we but recognize them.
Teacher Voices: Stewart Matthews - Here's another post in my continuing series on teacher voices. I'm interviewing some of my former students who have gone on to become teachers. In this po...
5 days ago