Easier said than done, especially these days. Being observant is important on many levels. My friend and mentor, Edith Folger Andrews, always said, “You need to go out and look. If you don’t look, you don’t see.” She was an ornithologist – here at the MMA for countless years. She was also the curator, for countless years, of the Mitchell House, and it was my involvement at a young age with the MMA that led me to Edith. (Her daughter, Ginger, is the MMA’s field ornithologist and she quotes this from her mother at the beginning of her weekly bird column for the MMA.)
I am an observant person – I notice things that others do not. Sometimes, I think it annoys people. I got this from my Father and it certainly comes in handy with being a curator and preservationist. (It certainly came in handy for an ornithologist like Edith!) One thing I always forget to do though, when I am out walking, is to stop, listen, take a deep breath and look. I reminded myself to do this not that long ago while out for a walk with my son and our Siberian Husky. We chose to do a Town walk – something the Husky and six-year-old love – and we wandered along Angola Street and up onto Mill Hill another favorite place of the six-year-old. We stopped, took a deep quiet breath, and looked back out over Town. With the leaves down, you could see the harbor and all the house tops and chimneys.
When I see that, it makes me pause. Because for the most part that’s the same image that someone saw 100 years ago or more. Yes, some more houses and additions to houses, and more trees, but that view of Town, all the houses pushed up together, weather-beaten and grey. That’s the view. And my son even gets that. He’s a fan of the Brinton Turkle Obadiah books – something my brother and I loved. And we look to see what house Obadiah and Rachel might have lived in, where the blackberry bushes might have been that lost Obadiah the race, and of course the mill. You can almost feel the presence of those who came before (real or even imaginary) us long ago. If you just stop and breath and look.
So, in this hard time, try and stop. Try and breath. Try and look. Find the beauty and hope in the simple things. The red-tailed hawk soaring overhead, the chiming of a barn owl at midnight, the breeze and salt-spray against your face, the smell of the salt and seaweed. The smell of a fire crackling in someone’s fireplace, the smoke curling and falling from the chimney top.