“Look at everything as if you are seeing it for the first time or the last time. Then your time on earth will be filled with glory.” – Betty Smith
The beach is a haven for me, a place where I automatically slow down and switch into a more carefree state of mind. I’m very fortunate to get to spend a week at the beach each summer. Even though I am often solely responsible for five or six kids when here, something about being near the ocean makes it all perfectly OK. Actually, it’s better than perfectly OK. It’s fun.
This is the first year at the beach for my puppies. Having them here has required a little adjustment to my formerly schedule-free days. Earlier mornings. Yoga practices that smell a little like peanut butter as my two fuzzy friends enjoy their frozen treats next to me. A little less time in flip flops and more time in sneakers as we walk the sidewalks of the island. While I worried that some of these adjustments would feel like “costs,” one in particular has been a real gift.
You see, until this week, I couldn’t remember the first time I saw a sea gull or a sand dune or the sweep of the giant, endless blue sky or the ocean. Because I was raised by a beach-loving mother and have always lived within easy reach of the seashore, these sights, though among the most beautiful in the world to me, are normal. But walking my dogs this week has made it all look and feel brand new.
When Pax froze in ecstatic jubilation at the sight of his very first seagull swooping across the sky, I froze too. As I tried to figure out what had him pointing with such focus and excitement, I actually saw the bird. Before that moment, I am certain that I would not have paid any attention at all. Seagulls here are everywhere. If you’re eating a sandwich, they’re even a bit of a threat. But that morning, I didn’t see a potential lunch thief. Instead, I viewed its enormous wingspan and the beautiful curves of its silhouette as it soared above us as things of beauty. That morning, instead of flying beneath the radar of my awareness, I actually saw the glory of the seagull and it made me smile (though perhaps not as widely as my dog).
This morning as we walked, we wandered down to the end of the island – or at least to the end of the paved part of the island. The closer we got to the end of the road, the more I could hear the sound of the crashing surf. The crash of waves is like a siren call to me and I found myself turning onto the dune path even though dogs aren’t allowed on the beach. When we crested the dune and caught our first glimpse of the ocean, my two energetic young dogs actually sat down in their tracks.
Though they have been hearing the sound of the sea for days, there was no way for them to know what was causing it. And the sight of all that water, the smell of the salt air, the sound of the waves, and the swath of sand took them a long moment to process. It was a moment I am so happy I was there to witness because I don’t remember my own first time. As I smiled and knelt down next to them, I tried to see it through their eyes. What has been a beautiful “normal” for my whole life became awe-inspiring in that moment.
And then a flock of seagulls swooped down and the peace of the moment came to a screeching (Literally. No one has ever accused the seagull of having a beautiful song.) halt as my dogs refocused on their most favorite thing – BIRDS!
As you head out into your day today, especially if you’re somewhere familiar, I invite you to look around with fresh eyes. I invite you to see your world as if for the first time. I invite you to seek beauty in sights you may have long since stopped noticing. I invite you to pause for a moment and just look. It may not be the most efficient or productive way to move through your day, but it’s late July, so maybe it’s OK to slow down a little bit to enjoy the magnificent world around you.
I’ll be doing the same thing here and smiling along with you.