As adults, we tend to focus on the big picture. How everything is connected. While young children, on the other hand, are enthralled by the small everyday things around them, to the exclusion of everything else in that moment. I’ve been reminded of this more and more while spending time with my one-year-old grandson.
He’s captivated by the sound of dead leaves under his feet. An airplane passing over head, or a dog walking by on the other side of the road, elicits a quick response and point. Other children playing basketball or riding bikes are a true wonder to him.
I remember when my own children were little, placing a caterpillar in a jar with leaves, a stick, and of course, holes in the lid. Then checking every day to see if it had spun a cocoon yet, and wondering when it would emerge as a butterfly. Ants carrying a discarded crumb down the sidewalk could hold their attention for hours.
As a writer, I try to break down my setting into smaller parts, to pay attention to all the senses. Walking the trails behind our house, the forest is not only a lot of trees. It’s green leaves on the trees, as well as brown dead leaves under foot. The air is cool and smells so strong of wet earth you can almost taste it. Birds sing and squirrels chase each other up one tree and down another. Is that rustle behind me a bird, a squirrel, a deer, or God forbid, a bear? The buzz of insects fills the air. I quickly forget there are other people not very far away.
We could all learn from children. Don’t try to take in the whole world and its problems, its complexities, all at once. Instead, stop and notice the little things. Ask yourself how that big airplane can fly as easily as a small bird. Wonder at the ability of a little ant to carry a crumb many times its own size. Try to imagine what it was like the first time you placed your bare feet on grass, or sunk your toes into wet sand at the beach. Slow down and enjoy your dinner, its many flavors and textures. Don’t just wolf it down so you can move on to bigger things.
Our world is a truly amazing place. Don’t get so busy you can’t enjoy it. Your heart may even thank you for the healthy reduction in stress.