As we round up the year I am inclined, nay determined, to ignore all that went wrong and focus on the good stuff even as they get buried under the terrible and the mundane. No eating out, no vacations and no parties meant that our immediate surroundings felt much too familiar, and if I am being a tad dramatic, mind-numbingly boring.
So imagine my delight when I came upon Alexandra Horowitz’s On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes. A cognitive scientist by profession, she walks around her Manhattan neighborhood with a series of experts – an urban sociologist, a geologist, a physician, a typography nerd, a wild-life scientist, a sound designer and an artist to name a few. She also walks with her toddler and then her dog, the playfully curious Finnegan, to get their perspectives. In this way, the familiar becomes unfamiliar, and the old the new.
I have been walking in and around our neighborhood so often this year, that I desperately need the old to become new. Although, it does help to have a spirited toddler at hand, especially around this time of the year. In October, we saw witches and ghosts, counted all the pumpkins on our neighbors’ porches and had long discussions over their exact color. These days it’s all about the bells and bows, the red and green, the twinkling lights and the roundness of the wreaths. Come Spring, there will be singing blue jays and yellow tulips.
There’s always something if we take the effort to look. Looking is an art form. Part intention, part practice. As we grow older, we learn to block out the unnecessary cognitive overload and focus our limited mental resources on the immediate task at hand. It helps us attain our goals, yes, but sometimes it’s nice to just let go.
Not one for making resolutions, but if I can begin 2021 with one thought, it will be, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle put it, “the observation of trifles.” The more trivial, the better.