It’s hard to pay attention all the time. To be present in the moment as they say. I’ve been paying attention to paying attention. What helps, what distracts, what the benefits are, that kind of thing.
We’ve just come back from a week in England. It wasn’t enough time, especially given the curve balls we were thrown. But it was great. There were so many things to pay attention to, to notice, to be aware of. Like reminding myself every minute that the cars that appear to be heading toward us in the oncoming lane were in fact, not a threat. I never did get used to that. My heart stopped rapidly jumping up and down at some point but it never got comfortable.
We visited our friends Duncan and Becky and their two little boys. (Is there anything cuter than little kids with British accents?) They live in the lovely little seaside surfing town of Newquay in Cornwall. The sea, the cliffs, the green… so many shades of green for our sand soaked eyes, it was all so beautiful. Even the clouds and little bits of rain were a refreshing change. It had been so long since we’d seen weather to speak of. We took lots of pictures (see below) and immensely enjoyed relaxing with our dear friends, seeing where they live now and getting reaquainted with their growing boys. It was wonderful. And it was cold! Coming from 45 degree weather our bodies were shocked by the the mid-teens and blowing wind but not quite as shocked as we were at the MANY people surfing in that weather!
I don’t actually look back at pictures very much. Especially scenery pictures. I’ve always wondered why I was so compelled to take such pictures when I knew I wouldn’t really appreciate them later. I’m beginning to understand that for me, this is a way of paying attention. For some, this is what painting is about. Looking so closely at something that you can replicate all the detailed shadows and colours and movement and flow, is like intense attention paying. Writing is obviously a way for me to pay attention. Anne Lamott (am I quoting her too much yet?) says if you’re overwhelmed by the magnitude of what you want to write, just pick a little portion and work on that. Pick 2 square inches of the painting to paint (metaphorically) today and not the whole canvas. I think that’s good life advice for anyone who’s overwhelmed.
We were driving back from Newquay to London and the pastoral views were beautiful but at some point I started playing a game on my phone. Now and then Dave would say in a warning tone, “you’re missing scenery”, and I would look up to see a beautiful hillside spotted with sheep, sloping down toward us, ending in a little stone cottage with a little stone wall with flowers cascading over it and shamefully I put my phone away.
During the time I had my head down, I didn’t notice the GPS switch off and somehow we got onto the wrong road. Turns out if you weren’t squeezing the charger into the GPS it would stop charging and eventually quit. So we were a little lost. We were still heading in the right direction but off the major highway and onto smaller roads. This actually suited us just fine. It was gorgeous and we weren’t in a hurry.
While I was fiddling with the GPS, trying to get the cord to stay in without draining the circulation from my fingers, Dave was watching me and giving me helpful suggestions (maybe) when Honour started to try to get our attention. Quietly at first, she said, ‘hey guys, look over there’. ‘Mom, Dad look at that’ and with increasing panic as we were almost past the site she yelled “REALLY MOM LOOK AT THE GIANT INUKSHUKS, THERE’S HUGE INUKSHUKS!!!!” We quickly glanced up as the ‘giant inukshuks’ were passing by our windows. “Whoooooa…is that Stonehenge?” we wondered….of course that was Stonehenge, what else could it be?
Needless to say we doubled back to take in this incredible sight. Thousands of years old this mysterious structure stands tall in the middle of a farmers field. Thousands of years later people still come from all over the world to see it, gather around it, wonder about it, talk about it, speculate about it and generally, pay attention to it. I bought a sweater in the gift store because it was so darn cold and then we walked around Stonehenge (I still couldn’t believe our luck). We all took some pictures, listened to the audio tour, learned some things, marvelled and headed back on our way.
I love serendipity. I love getting lost (when there’s no where in particular to be at a particular time). And I love that we had a kid in the back seat paying attention or we would have driven right past STONEHENGE! Can you imagine? It made me wonder, what else am I missing?
When we got to London “paying attention” took on a whole new meaning (as many of you who have me on Facebook know). More on that later.
Here are some things we paid attention to in the first half of our week in England.
*Heading off on a walk around the town of Newquay, Roan says to Honour (insert English accent) “Honour? Would you mind if I held your hand?” (Our hearts melted)*
Crazy surfers. Honestly…it was about 14 degrees.
Looking like Jackie O – but really, just keeping warm!