Posted by: jevcat | November 12, 2017

On Seeing

On Seeing

Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? (Mark 8:18)

I got to take a vacation this year.  That’s not something that happens all that often, for reasons both financial and of time.  I have a friend who spends the first two weeks of September every year on outer Cape Cod, and every year she invites me to spend a few days or a week there with her.  Most years, I – reluctantly – have to say no.  But not this year.

And so, early on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, on about three hours’ sleep and carrying with me the freelance project I would have to finish in the first couple of days there (and having seriously overslept), I set off to meet my friend in Brooklyn to begin the long drive.

The place my friend stays is unique – and its days are numbered, as the family that built it in the 30s is de-accessioning it to separate private owners, but that only makes times spent in the cozy little bungalows perched on the seawall along Cap Cod Bay more precious.  Sunsets spread across the expanse of the Bay are breathtaking, and if one positions oneself just so in the airy front room, all one can see is water.  Every moment the light is different, and every moment is to be savored.  The place manages to breathe wildness and peace simultaneously.  We have swum with seals almost close enough to touch while small seabirds dove nearby and sat for hours watching the sunset afterglow, moonlight on water, and the slow blink of lighthouses on the far end of the Cape a bottle of local wine or a pot of hot tea close at hand.

Phone 11.12.2017 1120

No matter how many times I go, I am grateful; no matter how many times I go, it will never be enough.  It is, to me, a miracle, and a foretaste of Paradise.

And Paradise must be explored.

My friend, who has been going there autumn and spring for decades, knows more wonderful places to walk than can be easily covered in a week, but we did our best.  And I realized that getting out of my usual milieu – and out into nature – brings with it an opening of the eyes, a different way of seeing.  There’s a sort of re-birth that occurs, and the world becomes new:  every curve of a branch a song, every glint of sun (or moon) on water is a revelation, the bark of each tree contains untold mysteries.  It was glorious, and I drove my poor, very forbearing, friend to distraction, I’m sure, stopping to photograph every feature and angle.

And then it was time to come home.  The ferry ride from Provincetown to Boston and the very long ride back to New York, is a passage from the magical realm to everyday life.

And yet, I seem to have carried a bit of the magic of that world, that way of seeing, back with me.  There have been times when I’ve caught a glimpse of that world right here, noticed something in a familiar object or place I’d never seen before.  It turns out, trees in New York City have branches and bark, too.  And there are sunsets and bays here, as well.  Why don’t I usually see them here, when I see so much beauty in them when I am on vacation?  Well, because I expect to see those things on vacation; I look for it.  Why not look for beauty here, too?  Why not stop and examine the curves and folds of things I pass on my way to work, to notice the color of the sky and the water here, too?  Don’t just rush past on the way from home to work and back:  stop, look, listen.

I’m trying to practice what that Buddhists call “mindfulness,” and to be aware of the beauty around me.  And even what is not beautiful.  A Jewish colleague once loaned me a little book of bruchas (blessings), translated from the Hebrew.  One of them was to be said when one sees an especially ugly person; it was “Blessed are you, oh Lord our God, who makes us all different.”  How wonderful to not condemn or despise difference – even the difference of ugliness – but, instead, to thank God for it.

I was even a bit later to work than I needed to be last Tuesday, because walking to and from my polling place, I stopped to look – and photograph – trees in my neighborhood in their bright autumn wardrobe, and to enjoy them.  I’m trying to notice things more.  Perhaps, just perhaps, the Kingdom of God is within.  I am learning, I hope, per Blake,

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

            And Heaven in a Wild Flower

            Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

            And Eternity in an hour.



  1. Great. I enjoyed it very much.

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