Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thursday Thinking – “Seeing”

Last night I stayed up late-for-me finishing a book.  I seldom (if ever) fall asleep after Calvin, so last night as I lay in bed reading by a flashlight I heard and saw things that I normally miss.  Things like bugs drawn to the flashlight.  (And while I slapped the first one, the second one must have landed on Calvin for he no longer buzzed, but he didn’t bite me.)  Next a little spider hurried across the book.  It was a library loan and I didn’t want to smear the pages so I let him crawl and a few minutes later he made his way back safely using the same route and I just watched him.  While the night noise of the frogs was familiar, Calvin’s twitching and jerking as he drifted off to sleep were not.  I realized how many little things I miss by always falling asleep first. 
The book was very pleasant with little drama, so after I finished it and turned off the flashlight, I rolled next to Calvin determined to lie quietly and think of all the good little things I hadn’t been appreciating all these years, and how I could be more observant in the future.  Habit proved too strong.  I was sound asleep before giving them their proper thoughts.
Though I didn’t have a revelatory dream, this morning I woke and read Annie Dillard’s essay “Seeing.”  It might as well have been a revelation for it reaffirmed those things I’d thought about the peaceful night before.  Ms. Dillard wrote:
“When I was six or seven years old, growing up in Pittsburgh, I used to take a precious penny of my own and hide it for someone else to find.  It was a curious compulsion; sadly, I’ve never been seized by it since.  For some reason I always “hid” the penny along the same stretch of sidewalk up the street.  I would cradle it at the roots of a sycamore, say, or in a hole left by a chipped-off piece of sidewalk.  Then I would take a piece of chalk, and, starting at either end of the block, draw huge arrows leading up to the penny from both directions.  After I learned to write I labeled the arrows:  SURPRISE AHEAD or MONEY THIS WAY.  I was greatly excited, during all this arrow-drawing, at the thought of the first lucky passer-by who would receive in this way, regardless of merit, a free gift from the universe.  But I never lurked about.  I would go straight home and not give the matter another thought, until, some months later, I would be gripped again by the impulse to hide another penny.
“It is still the first week in January, and I’ve got great plans.  I’ve been thinking about seeing.  There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises.  The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand.  But – and this is the point – who gets excited by a mere penny?  If you follow one arrow, if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremulous ripple thrill on the water and are rewarded by the sight of a muskrat kit paddling from its den, will you count that sight a chip of copper only, and go your rueful way?  It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny.  But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days.  It is that simple.   What you see is what you get.”
Of course!  Life is that simple.  Calvin says, “Wysiwyg” and “This is the stuff dreams are made of” (especially when he eats a good piece of beef or the heart of a watermelon) all. the. time. They're even in his book of Calvinisms.  He must have learned it while I was asleep. 


Ande said...

I loved this post. Especially that essay. And Dad's Calvinisms. I love you.

Tina said...

When I don't fall asleep first, which is rare, I have a hard time falling asleep. It is strangely annoying. There are lots of sounds and sights I am OK with missing as I fall asleep first.

Jill said...

You need a headlight!

michelle said...

This is amazingly beautiful. Which book is that from?