Monday, August 3, 2015

The Clarity of a Red Pepper



"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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20 comments:

  1. This is lovely Alexandra. So glad you are finding new depths in your relationship with your sons and with the world.
    Estelle

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  2. I love what you said about life being visible and magical, to not hurry. I like that life has "flipped a switch" for you. I feel like I'm getting closer to that place, where those moments last longer. I'm often pointing out the sunset or the mountains to my kids saying, isn't that so pretty? Like your boy, they're beating me to it. Thank you for your words today - I needed them.

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    1. Coming from you, Heidi, I am moved to tears. Thank you.

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  3. You are on a crazy awesome roll with theses posts, of late. (I mean, you always are, but something's really ON in the last handful).

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    1. I can't tell you what it means to me to know you, Jocelyn. Thank you.

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  4. Maybe this is one of the positive gifts of middle age. We hear so much about the wrinkles, hot flashes and crankiness. You have focused in on the beauty of this stage of life. You are spot on.

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    1. It's it, isn't it DMB? We were so busy we almost missed it.

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  5. I love the idea of this fresh vision for a new season of life.

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    1. Nina, I don't know how or why. Maybe it was the last few months that we cared for my mother before she passed away, but the times we had with her, when we would drive slowly through the rustic roads and she'd point, breathless, "look at the green. so much beautiful green!"

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  6. So true. I feel the same way.

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    1. It's all right here, so much beautiful around us. All around. If I didn't know who I was, I'd ask what kind of drugs I'm on. xo

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  7. Husband and I are noticing birds now, like the old people we are becoming. We have feeders and talk about them and stop everything to go look when the cardinal couple are around. Yesterday we watched a friend's 10 month old baby for 2 hours, and it was so pleasant (he's an easy baby) to be in the moment with him and remember those days of marveling over EVERYTHING.

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    1. So right, Ann. I feel like I'm two years old. Pointing at everything. Look! Look!

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  8. I'll have a little of that, please and thank you. (lovely)

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    1. I've met you in real life. You already do. xo

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  9. Awww, Alexandra :) I've missed your writing. What an absolute JOY it is to be here today and read these words. How wonderful of a gift it is that you bestow these pearls of wisdoms onto your children and that they, too, are beginning to appreciate something so simple and magnificent all at once.

    XOXO (PS: The farmer's market is possibly one of my favorite moments to take in the everything).

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    1. You made my day, Charlotte. You did. xo

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  10. Again, you're speaking my language. Something about turning 50 this year, perhaps? I think about how I've spent my summer; as a teacher, I'm always planning for summer with a gigantic to-do list, and then I get stressed in August when it's not done. Last year I had a huge jolt when my August came to a screaming halt and I had to give up EVERYTHING except what was right in front of me...I've tried to carry that lesson with me this summer, and to appreciate the extraordinary in the ordinary, to cherish the fleeting moments with my girl before she moves away again, and to watch in awe as my 15-year-old son grows into a man before my eyes. Thanks, Alexandra, for the reminder.

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    1. Ah, yes. Time, you can see it moving... and I hope and commit, to having good, good things to remember. xo

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