I like to think that I really see what I am looking at, that I keep aware of what my eyes take in, but nevertheless in the everyday course of things that doesn’t always hold true. I’m sure I miss an awful lot.
The other day I was making bread. I had the flour in a bowl ready for mixing and a glass jug of warm water was standing beside me on the draining board. I was just about to pick it up and pour the water into the flour when I glanced at it and saw something far more magical than just a jug of water. Earlier I’d measured oil in the jug and a very small amount had remained and mixed with the water, and now the surface was spangled with shining droplets all glowing with light reflected from the steel surface beneath the glass. For a moment I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing; I put everything aside and gazed at it. My bread-making had to wait while I stopped to take in the most breathtakingly lovely thing I have seen in ages.
It reminded me of a story my mother told me about once that happened in Quaker meeting for worship. A little boy and his mother were sitting together, the child on his mother’s lap, and as they sat there in silence amongst all the others gathered there that morning the sun was streaming through the meeting house windows. Shafts of sunlight beamed down from the windows to the floor, and caught in the beams of light were thousands of glittering particles of dust, shining, twinkling, floating in the sun. The little boy sat watching these magical light-beams, spellbound and fascinated, totally absorbed in their beauty and strangeness.
After a while he broke the silence and whispered to his mother, ‘What is it?’
‘It’s dust,’ she replied.
How often do I miss the beauty or the wonder of something simply because of its familiarity? It’s so easy to take things for granted and not really look, or listen. Every time something like this happens I love it; I feel grateful because it wakes me up, and I remember that it doesn’t take much to see magic and beauty in all sorts of places – all it takes is a bit of mindful attention, and you find that extraordinary things are everywhere, even in the kitchen sink.