Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Stop, Look, and Above All, Linger

Boston Public Library Courtyard Copyright: Lynn Schweikart
 Frank Bruni's column in this morning's New York Times entitled Time, Distance and Clarity, had a poignant message: too often we rush about our busy day without really taking in or appreciating our surroundings.

"I’m talking about subtle, incidental blessings that are strangely invisible to us. My friend N. realized that there was a towering, flowering Schefflera plant in front of her childhood home in California only after she’d moved to New York and begun coveting one in a Manhattan store, which wanted $500 for it," says Bruni.

Ah, yes, the blessings that greet us every day, which we are often too preoccupied to acknowledge. Bruni's column was inspired by his recent trip to Rome, a city where he'd lived and worked for a number of years, and was visiting again on a brief vacation.

"Above Rome’s pale yellow and dusky orange buildings, the sky somehow looks bluer than it does almost anywhere else," Bruni muses, "Did I take proper note of that when I saw it all the time? When it was the canopy over my waking, my working and the all-consuming, all-distracting tedium of daily life?"

I had similar feelings as I wandered around Boston last year, doing the research for Peaceful Places Boston. Was this stretch of Beacon Hill always so beautiful? Had I ever really paused to sit in the in the courtyard of the Boston Public Library and listen to the fountain? Why had I never taken the time to indulge my urge to wander along the Southwest Corridor Park and admire the South End's garden squares?

Especially in this season, when there is too much to do, and too little time to do it, it's good for the soul to rest for a moment and really notice.

"My companion halted in his tracks one afternoon to point out the heart-tugging perfection of the square we were in," writes Bruni. "It was the Piazza di Sant’Ignazio, one long side of which is traced by elaborately curved 18th-century buildings that evoke a rococo chest of drawers. I’d zoomed through it repeatedly years ago. And never once lingered. On this occasion I did. And then, my lesson learned, I stopped by again the next morning, before I headed to the airport and lost the precious chance."

Don't miss your precious chances: watch the sunset over the Charles River. Listen to the joyful sounds of children skating on the Frog Pond. Stop and smell the rich sea air near the waterfront. You'll come away restored and refreshed, with a deeper appreciation of the beauty that surrounds us every day.

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