The art of noticing your life By Samantha Reynolds
hen I had my son in September 2010, everyone gave me the same advice: “Savour this first year; it’s so fleeting.” I heard them loud and clear but how to do it wasn’t so apparent. I tried staring at his little face but inevitably my mind would wander to what to cook for dinner or how to woo that big San Francisco client (running my own business meant no maternity leave). I’m a lousy meditator and a compulsive list-maker, but what does—and always has —ground me to the very pinpoint of the present moment is writing. And so it was that I decided my New Year’s resolution for 2011 would be to get present by writing a poem every day. Not so much to rack up reams of poems, but to see the world through the eyes of a poet. To slow down, savour, take delight in, and notice the very essence of the world around me. I could have chosen to keep a diary but there is something wonderfully bracketed about a poem. It’s like it has its own rhythm and it knows when to end. A diary entry felt too open-ended, which is a little daunting for a daily project. I had written less than a dozen poems in my life before I embarked on this project. And I can unequivocally say that the practice of writing a poem a day has 12 bcparent.ca • fall 2012
been transformative. The act of noticing the details of my days, just in case one might be the seed of a poem, forces me to be mindful, even when the days are tedious and smell distinctly of pureed yams and baby pee. I write my poems at the very end of the night. There is something about the imposed deadline of imminent sleep that cuts through the deliberation of writing and forces me to commit. Plus, by the end of I’m a lousy meditator and a compulsive list-maker, but what does—and always has—ground me to the very pinpoint of the present moment is writing.
the day, I am so saturated with all the “noticing”, the poem practically drops right out. (My husband says it’s creepy but I think that’s a compliment.) Even if you are defiantly opposed to the idea of writing poetry, I challenge you to spend one day trying to notice as many details as possible as your day unfolds. The way your kitchen smells like toast, the way your neighbor washes his car with such ten-
derness, how much your feet remind you of your father, the chalky white of the sky. Being creative is rewarding but just as meaningful to me is the journey of mindfulness, and the enduring sweetness of slowing down and savouring your life. The whole point is to cherish your days, get hungry for those illuminated moments that insist you write them down, or photograph them. Being present is gorgeously uncomplicated. You are having experiences every second. Your toddler is singing Old McDonald at the top of his lungs, or your teenager is putting on eyeliner in your bathroom. Your job is just to lean in and pay attention. Do it over breakfast, and in the car on the way to soccer practice. In the line-up at the bank. Sitting on the bus. Hosting a dinner party. Having sex. Breathe. Settle a little deeper into the moment. Look hard. What do you see? If the grass is green, what does it remind you of? Does it look like the waxy skin of an apple, or the colour of your grandmother’s eyes? When you really see each moment, as truthfully as you can, meaning emerges. Your life is trying to teach you. Every moment is a stockpile of insight. Poetry is your language for hearing that wisdom. Be
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