Monday, May 23, 2011


  A very young child doesn't focus on the 'big picture' - he (all my children were boys, so that's how I think of children, sorry) is not yet familiar with the 'familiar'. The small fascinates. He will squat down on the path and spend a long time examining an ant as it tries to carry a piece of food larger than itself, while the parent tries to point out the elephant in the enclosure next to the path. The elephant is too smelly, too scary, and way too big to be comprehensible to the toddler.

He learns quickly though. Humans are smart, especially the little ones. He learns that his parents are not interested in ants. He learns that elephants are important. And that when he expresses interest in the elephant instead of the ant, mum and dad will express pleasure and praise his efforts. Thus the small stuff is gradually forgotten.

 

For those parents who are lucky enough to spend a lot of time with their young children, there is a chance to rediscover the tiny joys the world has to offer. I spent 27 years at home with my children, not only in the preschool years, but also, because I homeschooled them, right up until the last one went to university. I was so lucky to rediscover the small wonders.


My third son, in particular, helped me rediscover how to observe the world. For a number of years I thought Simon might grow up to study birds, insects, or botany, such was his interest, but as he grew older his observational skills were directed into his art. His gift to me was to point out the detail of the world: he helped me notice the different shades and shapes of green in the countryside; the way different types of birds flew differently, and so are distinguishable from the way they move in the air; he taught me to look at the detail of the world, instead of just the wider view.

 

Although it is nice to sit down outside on a sunny day and relax with a beer or a cup of tea while looking out at the wide sweep of our beautiful country view, I now find that quite quickly I become distracted by the bumblebee on the scarlet pineapple sage flower, or the sharp point of a spring bulb poking way too early through the soil. And so with other aspects of life: I have found that in all aspects of my life I am finding the detailed, close view more interesting and more manageable than the broad view.


The housework and gardening is easier to manage if I stop looking at the big mess and just attack one small area at a time. When I look at my Apiculture course work, I get overwhelmed by how much there is, but if I do it unit by unit, reading by reading, test by test, it becomes easier - and more interesting.


When I look at my psychological state, I find it too scary to think about long term. I do plan a little, (such as planning to buy a 'happy light' before next winter) but mostly I have discovered that for me the trick is to focus on the present. At the worst of times last year it helped to just ask myself, "Am I safe at this tiny moment an time, this exact moment? I got through the last moment so this moment too will pass." It was too scary to consider more than that.


This morning, having been reminded by a John Kirwan television advertisement last night, I got up and walked for 30 minutes on the treadmill. I've found that again I have to focus on the moment to get through it - if I think about the fact that I still have x minutes to go, I find it nearly impossible to get up and do it again the next day! But it is a fact that exercise is very important in fighting depression, so I need to do it.


After I'd done that, put the washing on, fed the cats, the dog and the chooks, and having got very wet legs walking down to the chook run, I decided to scythe the pathway. Scything is my favourite physical activity. It is energetic, peacefully quiet, involves my whole body, and requires attention to detail. It puts me into an active meditative state. Then at the end, I look back and am rewarded to see a useful task completed. Despite being absorbed in the task, I was also observing the detail around me. I'm a bit phobic about spiders, and hate dusty old cobwebs in sheds, but oh, how very beautiful are dew covered spider webs in the morning sun.

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