It was gorgeous last weekend, the perfect opportunity to get the kids out of the house, enjoy some time together and do a bit of Christmas reconnaissance shopping. We walked the half-mile to town in the crisp, cold December morning under a dazzling blue sky, birds flitting and deer grazing in the open field we passed. Any winter day in these parts that’s not cloaked in a dreary, gray, foggy freeze is a perfect day in my book, and this day was perfection, my omnipresent fatigue notwithstanding.
Our quaint, historic town was full of shoppers and the garden shop we entered was particularly stuffed. I stood to the side to keep our dog out from underfoot and watched as my daughter ogled each little thing in the tiny, treasure-filled shop. As I stood enjoying the scene I heard a woman’s voice, close to me and very quiet, saying, “I wish I could see this.”
I glanced up and saw an older woman I’d seen out on the sidewalk a few minutes earlier, her left hand curled around the arm of someone I imagined to be her daughter, her right hand holding a red-tipped cane. She was in her seventies or eighties. I hadn’t taken much more notice than that, had not even seen her enter the store, but her soft statement seemed to cut through all the ambient noise and was, in fact, the only thing I heard in one of those rarified moments where time and sound seem suddenly suspended.
And in that moment, hearing her words, I felt my heart catch just a little and I was flooded with a soft sadness. It was something in the way she said it: so quietly, like a private aside, and perhaps it was, except I heard her. There was no self-pity in her statement, no anguish: just a reflection.
“I wish I could see this.”
I looked over at the beautiful little display on the shelf that she could not see but wished she could. I looked at the lovely little lights twinkling, the greenery, the thousand little things, all so sweet, all so charming. I looked at the old, waxed, pine plank floors and the children all bundled and Maia, the chocolate Lab, greeting everyone. I could see it all, and it was all so beautiful.
Now, I’m a person who notices and appreciates what’s around me most of the time. I express my gratitude for the many good things in my life on a daily basis and I am keenly aware of the magical place in which I have the great good-fortune to live. But as much as I appreciate I also, unwittingly, take so much for granted: I imagine we all do. The fact that I can see, for example. The fact that I can walk to town. The fact that I have a lovely home to return to after my walk.
All the way home I thought about not being able to see all the beauty that surrounded us, the deer and the sky and the faces of my children. I imagined being that old woman in that shop, hearing the sounds and seeing nothing but darkness. I imagined the deep desire to see the green garland and twinkling lights and not just remember them in my mind’s eye. I imagined the sense of wistfulness and longing that I would feel — the wistfulness I heard in her sweet voice.
We all have so much, so many gifts that we open and then casually toss aside in our overabundance of good fortune. Seeing is a gift. Hearing is a gift. Walking, breathing, feeling — all are gifts that we get to open every morning until one day, maybe, we don’t.
There are moments such as this one that I experienced that are extremely precious, reminding us, as they do, of all that we have and how fragile and fleeting it is. It is a particular blessing – a gift, you might say – to be reminded of what you have while you still have it.
May you be filled with the light of awareness and love this Solstice Season, and may you deeply enjoy your many gifts.