This morning, Sophie and I dodged a bullet — on our way back home from our short walk, while she was being very good and heeling next to my right side (waiting for the next bunch of treats I’d offer her as a thank you), I heard a rustling in the blackberry brush beside us to my left. Sophie may have heard it, too, or she may have been more interested in the possibility of treats. In any case, she stayed right next to me, and as we walked past the rustling, I looked over to the left, and there was a whole family of skunks — two adults at least, and I thought I heard more rustling behind them. As much as part of me wanted to hang out for a moment and get a closer look, the louder and more adrenaline-y part of me hustled us on down the road. I fed Sophie my whole hand-full of treats, letting the shot of panic ease out of my muscles. Whew.
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Yesterday we went for a long hike, the whole family, and I thought about how all of this is new for Sophie. She’s just about 7 months now; if she were a human baby, of course, she’d barely be out of her parent’s arms! Here we were, exploring trails, eucalyptus groves, shrubby vistas — every inch of it brand new to her. She shows all of her interest and enthusiasm, puts her whole body into it, her nose to the ground, her tail up and wagging. She bounds over to and pounces on the things she wants to see, or she trots, more cautious, watching with intent and focus.
Just imagine what this must be like for her, I thought. It’s all new. It’s all first. Today she was dancing for the man collecting the recycling, because that truck, the noise, the rolling, the beeping: all interesting, overwhelming, fascinating, new.
What if we allowed ourselves that kind of presence and exuberance? Writers, especially, benefit from the ability to go (back) to that place of wide-open-innocent eyes, taking everything in, allowing it to be fresh.
I have two prompts, in response to this noticing (maybe take 10 minutes for these, just to start):
1) Do you remember a time when you walked through a new place, fascinated by everything because it was all new to you? What about your characters? How do they engage in or with someplace new?
2) What would it be like to go through the day, paying attention to everything as though it were the first time you were seeing it (because, of course, it is the first time — whatever you see today will be the first time you’ve seen it today; and, too, it will be slightly different from how it looked, what it was, yesterday)? What’s required of us to be that present?
3) (one more!) What would it be like to pay attention to your own body like it was the first time you were experiencing it? Think about writing that story of loving discovery (consider allowing that story to be loving, if you balk at that phrasing — just consider it.)
Thank you for your attentions — they matter. We are all new, every minute: that’s the other thing. Thanks for your every-present creation, your brilliance, your words.