“What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare? —
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.”
– William Henry Davies
Life is surely for living and getting things done. And yet it would be meaningless without a healthy dose of looking at the world in wonder. If this daily exercise in blogging has done anything beyond strengthening a habit, it’s prodded me to look at the world in new ways. It’s not like I was closed-minded before, but writing seems to widen the path just as Instagram and an iPhone got me looking at flowers and sunrises differently.
But what do you drop for this new perspective? Does the mind expand? Sure, I’ll go with that. But does it expand from the writing or from the experiences you’re adding to fuel the writing? Does it matter?
This morning my cat and I are looking out the window at the steady stream of birds going to the feeders and poking about on the dormant shrubs and vines, looking for leftover berries and seeds or a bit of shelter from predators like the one sitting with me. The cat’s interest is betrayed by her tail swatting me in the head as each bird or squirrel comes onstage. My interest is more subtle, but it’s there just the same. Winter is not the barren landscape people think it is; life goes on all around us. Putting a feeder out surely pulls in more of that life than there would otherwise be. Writing is like that feeder, and it gets filled with observations, poems and quotations and strung-together thoughts. And just like the bird feeder the writing pulls life out of an otherwise barren landscape of a more closed mind.
Up again for another slow dance with caffeine, I look out the window and notice a doe a hundred meters out in the woods, seemingly staring back at me. Scanning the woods I see a few others scraping at the snow looking for acorns or other edibles. But this doe seems to be looking right in the window at me. Standing and staring, just like me. Beauty’s glance, right there in the woods, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to see it. And that’s life, one moment of beauty at a time amongst the stark and barren. You just have to look for it.