Paying Attention

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Half way up the bank above the upper terrace of lawn stands a huge rotten tree stump. Alone in a sea of grass it looks more like an outcrop of rock than the remains of a tree and its presence there looks intentional; it commands such a dominating position above the smoothly mown surface of the grass below that it can be seen from the other side of the park and stands out like a beacon.

The other day I climbed up the bank to take a closer look. I’ve passed by so many times without stopping that up until now I’ve only known it as a landmark and I thought I’d like to get to know it better. I have no idea of its age (I tried to count the rings but the surface is too worn and pitted), or its history, or what stories it might have to tell.

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There are too many things, and too many people that I don’t pay enough attention to. It’s just so easy to think Oh, there’s so-and-so, and not even stop to acknowledge the unique individuality that is that tree or that dog or that person. I do it all the time, and I thought about this as I crept over and around and even underneath this stump-of-a-tree that is so rich and wonderful a thing, and so much more extraordinary and beautiful than I’d thought it was, seeing it every day from a distance.

Looking closely at one thing and giving it my full attention, being fully there with all my senses and thinking of nothing else reminds me of how much I miss, when much of the time I am not feeling and seeing and being, but rushing about thinking of – what? Of the past, of the future, of things I’ve got to do and things that haven’t happened yet. And in this state I am nowhere at all, not here, not there, not anywhere.

I like to be reminded in this way. I am gently tugged by the sleeve by something I too often ignore, and letting myself be led I find again that there is wonder and magic and extraordinary beauty all around, if only I choose to stop and pay attention.

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