I was 22 years old, fresh out of college but trying to act the part of a grown-up, as I set out to prove that I knew what I was doing and looked older than my flip flops and prairie skirts otherwise showed. I’d gotten hired to teach three sections of English – American Lit, Honors’ American Lit and Brit Lit – and was in pure survival mode, lucky to have finished the assigned reading the night before I was thrown into the den of the teenage wolves the next morning.
I remember the kids – the good kids and the bad kids, but mostly the bad kids. [Steal my bike and ride it around campus? Connor. Gather together a team effort to distract the teacher and set the clock forward five minutes? The class of ’02 seniors.] I remember how it was a good fit for me, but not the best fit. And as I think back on it now, I remember those little nuggets I taught and knew better than anyone else in room 26 – because, as the teacher, I had to know the literature inside and out, I had to master the information.
Many of those remnants of remembrance remain – like the fact that Mark Twain was called a natural observer, that he delighted in seeing the little pieces of humor and hope and reality in the every day things of life.
I want to do the same. I want to, as Barbara Kingsolver writes in Prodigal Summer, notice the detail that goes unnoticed in the world.
And so I’ve been trying to look up more lately.
It’s kind of like this: when you’re learning to ride a bike, your natural instinct is to stare at the concrete in front of you – but if we stare at the ground too long, we’re soon going to end up on it, one with the asphalt. That ain’t pretty.
Or, take last month’s vacation, as an example. Our days followed the same pattern: wake up; drink coffee and relax and read; hike along the Coastal Trail; eat lunch out; lay by the pool and soak up the sun and read; play in the water; grill fresh fish and veggies; eat, drink and be merry. Repeat. I found it interesting that as I’d hike along the ocean, Cancan in the Ergo on my chest, delicious turquoise blue to my left and popping green flora and fauna to my right, that I stared at the ground, desiring to be careful and overly cautious as not to trip and hurt my baby.
Look up, look up! I’d have to remind myself – because in my own worry and fear, I’m missing out on noticing life. It passes me by and I’m not seeing a second of it.
Even yesterday, Cancan bouncing incessantly in his Johnny Jump-a-roo, staring at me with the biggest smile on his face. I’d look at him and smile back, but then go back to the email I was typing. But the little bugger kept staring and he kept smiling that goofy, perfect grin at me.
“Oh, you just want me to notice you?” I said out loud.
Yes, yes he does.
Might I shut the laptop and get lost in the goofy grins of love. Might I look up at the road and the path ahead, even if I’m afraid of tripping or falling. Might I choose to look up, look up and be a natural noticer.
What about you?0