Telling About It

I don’t have a lot of friends. But the handful of badasses I know are kind, thoughtful, and intelligent. Perhaps, one of the most exciting things in my life is our conversations. Since I am a small-talk hater, I am a sucker for our discussions, which are funny, deep, enlightening, and intoxicating.

Dog1When I was talking to a friend about my cycle rides, she asked me, “Do you see flowers on your ride?” I read her message again, for I couldn’t believe that I was asked such a question. Nobody has posed that kind of a beautiful question. Ever. I told her, “I haven’t seen lovely flowers in Chennai.” She asked modestly, “Is there a flower that’s not lovely?” I don’t know why she reminded me of Luna Lovegood, but I loved her question. I told her I always see dogs. Lazy dogs. Sleepy dogs. Crazy dogs. Naughty dogs. Happy dogs. Dogs. Dogs. Dogs. She smiled. But I told myself then that I should start paying attention. Maybe that’s the panacea I was after.

This Luna-Lovegood-friend of mine wondered if I would enjoy writing a blog about things I see during my walks and cycle rides. I was a wee bit skeptical about my eye for all things beautiful. However, she has wordlessly taught me that extraordinary beauty lies in things that we see everyday, and that one just has to take a moment to observe.

Flowers

All my life, I didn’t notice flowers. For reasons I can’t fathom, I didn’t appreciate them. But after our conversation, I see their vibrant colours. Their carefree dance to the tunes of zephyr. Their subtlety. Their good spirits.

I don’t know their names yet. I want to believe that I will get there soon.

Sun

For the last few weeks, I have been trying to see the sunrise or the sunset every day. I have come to trust that watching the sun is some sort of a simple meditation. During those few minutes, the present becomes longer and sheds its weight, the past escapes the memory, and the future waits like an obedient beast at the threshold.

On several evenings, I sat on a stonebench, and watched the star turn pink, as it applied ethereal colours in delicate strokes on its blue canvas. I felt… alive.

mary-oliver-instructions-quotePeople

If one starts observing people, do they bask in the attention, and seem more friendly? I have been seeing smiling people. So many. People walking their dogs. People playing cricket on the lawn, and hurling swear words at each other in a friendly manner. People indulging in banter. People relishing cone ice cream. People lying supine on lawn and daydreaming (maybe). People lost in thoughts. People who are old and infectiously energetic. People who try to read the title of the book I read. People who smile brightly when they see me ride a bicycle. Smiling people. Sulking people. All of them, strangely beautiful.

This friend of mine also asked if I saw an ant recently. My answer was negative. She wondered if I would love to notice one. And, and, it took almost a month for me to find one. But, when I bumped into that tiny rascal a couple of days ago, I pumped my fist in the air and went, “Woohoo!” I am attaching no sarcasm to the confession that I am going to make now. Finding an ant offered an incredible sense of accomplishment. Maybe, life’s meaning boils down to unassuming moments like that.

All this while, discovering beauty seemed a quest. I am now beginning to realise that it’s like looking for a milestone. It feels amazing to nod at them as I travel, as the horizon stretches, and as life unfolds. They nurse the wounds, nourish the soul.

“I wanted
the past to go away, I wanted
to leave it, like another country; I wanted
my life to close, and open
like a hinge, like a wing, like the part of the song
where it falls
down over the rocks: an explosion, a discovery;
I wanted
to hurry into the work of my life; I wanted to know,
whoever I was, I was
alive
for a little while.”

— Mary Oliver

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44 thoughts on “Telling About It

  1. See, I’m the exact opposite. Not a dog person AT ALL but ALWAYS noticing the flowers, and the trees, and the weeds, and the grass, and the leaves, and the branches, and the veins in the leaves, and the way the sky looks against branches that fan out.

    Recently, I’ve started googling all the flowers that I come across—I like that knowing the name of the flower builds another layer of connection between me and this thing that gives me such joy.

    Same with sun. Clouds. And Sky. This year sometime I want to learn the names of all the different cloud formations. And develop a vocabulary of a great range of colors so as to think about the various ways in which they riot across the sky.

    (I also love the sun’s warmth, and the way it crosses the barrier of my skin and settles deep inside me.)

    And yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, about people! I try to remember that everyone is trying to do the best they can in the moment, and that makes it easier to let them off the hook.

    There IS SO MUCH JOY IN THIS WORLD!! Right here, right now. In this sparkly cover of my notebook. In the bunch of tulips, I was inspired to buy yesterday. In the way the sunlight is filtering through the windows right now. In the black cover and the blue cube on the face of this week’s NYT magazine or the peach-red of the cover of the Book Review. I turn my head, and I can see so much beauty all around me, right here, right now. . .

    I’m getting carried away. 😛 Just that noticing, the every day, every moment noticing is something very close to my heart, and a muscle that I want to exercise more and more.

    Glad you wrote this post! Yes, to everything you say!

    P.S. I’d love to have a chat with your friend!

    P.P.S.: “During those few minutes, the present becomes longer and sheds its weight, the past escapes the memory, and the future waits like an obedient beast at the threshold.” I love this because it reminds me of the power of bringing my attention to this moment and how everything fades away when my focus is here and now. . . Mindfulness, it reminds me of mindfulness, which is another favorite feeling of mine.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh. What a passionate, passionate comment, Juhi. Thank you for sharing so many beautiful things with me. I could see all of it. Many thanks. And learning the names of cloud-formation sounds fantastic. 🙂

      It was a great delight to read your comment. It was utterly soulful. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a wonderful post.

    I have lifelong friends that I have deep conversations with all the time. Such people seem to be drawn to one another.

    The questions and observations about observing thins, flowers, ants, smiling people, etc. are making me think. There are many things that I spent alot of time observing and thinking about as a child, that I barely notice these days. I think that I should start spending some time noticing things again.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I like how your friend thinks. 🙂
    I like to observe the small things too and sometimes they make me smile or laugh and then I wonder if the people around me think I’m crazy. I like flowers but I love trees. I love watching their leaves change and the way they twist and grow make them each one seem to have its own personality.
    I also love to watch the sun set. I try to watch the sun rise once but I swear it was just about to rise and then I blinked and it’s already up.
    People watching is one of my favorite things to do in the summer.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m so happy you posted again, Deepika! I missed your posts! Noticing beauty in things we see everyday requires effort, it has to be conscious, but those moments when you make your mind stop and look at things and appreciate them are usually the best parts of my day 🙂 the ‘ant hunt’ made me laugh, but thinking of it it was while since I saw one!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a great friend! Love this post and how you includd Mary Oliver’s writing! You always make me think about whether I enjoy such little moments enough. I don’t know enough about flowers either, but you found such beautiful ones in your citiy. I love having flowers in my home, especially the first tulips in spring. Right now the sun has come out and is warming my back, I want to purr like my cat next to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I completely miss all the small things when I go for walks. I am usually lost in thought, planning for later, planning for the next day, month, year. Planning, thinking, planning. Lately, I have been trying to be more mindful and observant. It’s a hard task but I realized how much I have been overlooking.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. This is a beautiful post, starting with “a small-talk hater, I am a sucker for our discussions, which are funny, deep, enlightening, and intoxicating”. I’m not totally a small-talk hater, because it’s a way to get to the big or deep talk, that is, it’s often through small talk that you make connections that can move on to another level. But it’s funny how there are some people you know for years and years and years, you like them, they’re nice people, but you never seem to get beyond the small talk. I do find that frustrating and sad and ultimately awkward. One of my favourite lines – from somewhere that I’ve forgotten – goes “oh the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person”. That can be partners and family, but it can also be those special friends with whom you speak from the heart, who know you well and still love and accept you, and with whom the talk never stays small for long.

    BUT now, flowers. I discovered flowers – not through my keen gardener Dad, though I should have – but through bushwalking and wildflowers. I love looking out for them, for the big showy ones, for the tiny tom thumb ones. And I love photographing them. Unlike mammals, reptiles, birds and insects, they don’t run, slither or fly away! They’ve also brought me to appreciate garden flowers.

    When I walk – I don’t cycle – I never have a device on me. I like to walk and think and look. I try to think in the moment, not about what’s on my mind or worrying me, which is a big thing for me to achieve. It’s taken many years, but I now love walking and looking out for what I might see!

    Finally, your friends asked you really lovely questions. They’re keepers, but of course you know that. (Sorry for the ramble).

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You know what – I am guilty of this – I hardly ever see flowers. Wait, scratch that. I am sure I see them, I just don’t give them much thought. It is as good as not seeing them. Such a pity. I am going to correct this.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Noticing little things …
    Don’t even ask me about it. Ever since I read your review of Charlotte’s Web, and followed it up with reading it too, I been hard put to do regular household cleaning. Whenever I pick up the de-cobwebber stick and start on the ceiling, I hear the little critters, all big and small, calling out,
    “Hey man, you can’t do it! I just got my stuff and moved in last week.”
    “Took me a full day to build my house.”
    “Guess what I paid a premium to get this corner ceiling nook”

    And I end up postponing the cleaning.
    Of course, I enjoy my little chats with a passing beetle or garden bug. They do listen – you can make out from their twitching antennae – and then scurry off.
    Then there is this bevy of mynahs and a couple of nifty bulbuls, who call out from my balcony for their morning snack – a fistful of raisins.

    Yesterday, or was it the day before?, after reading your post, I came across this which talks bout being in attentive states, in the present:
    I began to realize that, because I was in deeply attentive states, hour after hour watching animals and birds and landscapes … my identity depended not upon any beliefs I had, inherited beliefs or manufactured beliefs, but my identity actually depended on how much attention I was paying to things that were other than myself. [As] you deepen this intentionality and this attention, you started to broaden and deepen your own sense of presence. And I began to realize that the only place where things were actually real was at this frontier between what you think is you and what you think is not you; that whatever you desire of the world will not come to pass exactly as you will like it.
    – David Whyte
    BTW I picked that up from a favorite site of yours. Read more David Whyte on vulnerability

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What a nice post! Maybe it will open my eyes a bit — when I cycle or walk my dog. How good it is to take in things around oneself. To observe. I agree it can be meditative and transcendent. It’s the little things that are important. ps. I need to read more Mary Oliver poetry!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Small things that are big 🙂 This is a lovely post, and I related to a lot of it, because I went through a similar epiphany about 2 years ago and it’s amazing how much a seemingly “small” shift has altered my life and perception. Btw, you should read “I Am The Messenger” by Markus Zusak if you haven’t yet. It has a similar message at its core. One of my favourite books.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Your blog is always so inspiring, Deepika. My mother taught me to appreciate flowers. She had a degree in Botany and was full of fun facts. The first of your pictures is the bougainvillea and the pretty pink you see are not petals but leaves! The flower is a tiny thing protected inside all the layers… I hope you have a wonderful time learning about flowers. There’s so much to love in nature, it’s a hobby you’ll never tire of.

    Liked by 1 person

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