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Time to Pause and See

 
Dr. Scott Marshall's picture

It’s that time of year: in this corner of the world, northern Illinois in the United States in the northern half of the Western hemisphere, it is a time to pause.  Halloween is over and Thanksgiving is still far off.  Summer is surely gone and the holiday season is not yet upon us.  There is no snow on the ground yet; you can go outside without a jacket some days and there are lawnmowers still groaning around the neighborhood, taking the last tiny harvest of grass, reaping neatness rather than hay.

This is a time to pause before the headlong holiday rush, to take in some crisp fall air and look around.  Look around the neighborhood, the block, the subdivision; look around your corner of the city and see the architecture, the lights, the activity, the parks.  In the country take a look-see at the stubble from harvest, late crops still in, the steam rising from the barn.  Check out the wildlife: the squirrels, the birds, the people.  Look at the land, the sun, the stars, at nature and the universe, life unfolding in front of us every second.  What signs of life, of love, of care, of humanity are there all around us?

Take another breath of that air, maybe laced with the scent of fallen leaves and maybe cinnamon (dare I say pumpkin spice?!), and really see the people around us: family, friends, co-workers, that anonymous guy on the street we pass by every Wednesday morning.  The network of people that makes each of our lives our actual life.  What do we see when we aren’t rushing, when we take a minute to move at the pace of the seasons rather than the race of the digital clock?  What if our priority was people and not deadlines or money or racing around or between our towns and cities for a thousand different things, most of which become clutter?

And pause to take yet one more breath of that cool, refreshing air, and let the world slow down inside us, let the small things of life around us be magnified.  What are our real priorities?  Stuff?  Phone?  Fear?  Anger?  Anxiety?  Let those ideas go with your breath.  What about all the things we might actually miss if they were gone: people, animals, little rituals and habits that make up the fabric of our lives.  Singing along, even if you can’t carry a tune, time spent with those we love, hobbies that fulfill us, the taste of a favorite family dessert even if it isn’t really healthy, rest and interesting conversation and time to simply focus again and again on these small, vital things.

Take the time to see and feel and hear, to experience these small vital things in this time of pause, time of lessening light and changing clocks, time of cooling and slowing and reconnecting with what is most important in our lives.  Jon Snow, “King of the North” in the HBO TV series Game of Thrones had a fail-safe prediction, because winter IS indeed coming.  But it isn’t the end of the world; it is not even a crisis; it is an opportunity.  And Ferris Bueller was right, too: “Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”  We could and we do, all of the time.  So, between this very moment in time that you read this and the start of winter, we have a chance to do just that: look around.  

Soon enough it will be time to get back to the routine, the rat-race, the whirl of post-modern life and family and business and forced merriment: everything that constantly demands our attention.  But we forget that we each control our own attention.  Always.  So, remember . . .  at home, at work, at school, anywhere   . . . you can always take a breath (or two or three), and really see.  And then live based on that, and not the yammering bluster going on around you.  Happy seeing!

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