"Why is it that we have to wait until we are 50 years old, before we see just how beautiful a red pepper is?," Sandy Dennis says this to Alan Alda in the 1981 movie The Four Seasons. I say “say” because she wasn't asking. She already knows.
It's not really the red pepper she's talking about. It's the clarity of appreciation for the world that we live in. Looking at things with the wonder that makes everything new, a rebirth of our senses. This year, I feel myself growing into this fresh vision, when I look up at the sky, its expanse, and am overwhelmed. When I stand ankle-deep in summer lake water, my toes sinking into the accepting sand, I am bewitched by the way you can almost smell its coolness.
This is a new way of living for me. I have lived life in a blur, crossing things off my list of what needed to be done, and diving into the next sheet of must-dos and to-dos. Even when moments of gratitude screamed so loud I couldn't ignore them, I still only spared 60 seconds in whispered thanks. And usually while doing something else at the same time.
It's summer, and my three children are along with me on this turn in my life. What I feel, they hear about. What has now become my extraordinary from the ordinary, spills over into their existence. It's like the walks we used to take, my hand with a smaller hand inside.
Their sentences were three words then. But what more do you need beyond three words when your heart does the talking for you? I remember my own thinking in those heady days, as I felt their palms press so close to mine, hand-soft-son. My children would speak in the same language, “Mama, look, bird!” We would walk, stopping, squatting to inspect whatever pulled our attention. Flowers, and the petals in each. The sky, its blueness or not. They would see nothing unusual in soaking up the world without any other thoughts but this.
Running on all cylinders, like a machine, multitasking my way through the day, has been my method for decades now. Needing to get as much done in the 24 hours that I had, as I could. And my children have been hanging on as I tear through the minutes with them.
But now, something has flipped a switch. Life has become real, visible, magical. The air I breathe feels like a golden ticket. I find myself wanting to spend the life ahead of me in admiration. I don't want to hurry through anything, not the sadness, misunderstandings, missed opportunities, or the heartbounding joy. I know now that each day is gone at sunset.
Today, it was the local farmer's market that became the source of beauty. There with my children, we walked past crates of purple eggplant, yellow wax beans, red raspberries. I lingered at one stand especially, it was a farmer who had the brightest red peppers I've seen this year. I picked one up and, turning it over in my hand, I passed it to my children. The youngest one took it from me, and as I opened my mouth, he began my sentence for me, “Yes, mom, we know, 'Have you ever seen such a beautiful red pepper?' "
They are right. I do ask them that. But it's only because somehow I've never seen before just how beautiful a red pepper is.
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