I am basking in a warm sun, watching magnificent clouds that spit rain at random moments, turquoise water so blue it seems unreal, and a wind that whips through palms trees and kicks up soft white sand or gently rustles the vegetation surrounding my villa. Maybe because I am on vacation and my vista has changed for the first time in more than two years, or maybe because I have put away my apple watch and for the most part my phone, and computer, or maybe it's putting aside all the stress of work and the tedious chores of daily existence, whatever it is, my appreciation for living in the world and admiring the beauty around me is revived.
This morning stepping into the water outside the villa where there is a shallow mangrove. I notice what appears to be small mounded plants with green and black fronds dotting the sandy floor. Looking closely I see movement underneath, so I gently flip one over and there is a gorgeous blue undulating creature, a type of jellyfish called a Cassiopea. I love seeing something new by looking really closely. It is like seeing a painting or reading a poem and finding something that you had never noticed before suddenly appear, giving the work new meaning and turning it into something different.
Nothing compares to the experience of the world in person. It engages all your senses. There are sounds, smells, sights that can't be appreciated on a zoom call. We listen more fully, see more, feel more. I am tired of the disconnected, flattened world of two dimensions that has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
A good friend of mine, a teacher, shows his students a photo of a tiger and asks, "What is this?"
They answer "A tiger!"
"It's not a tiger!" It's a picture of a tiger!"
This might seem like a minor point, but when you really think about it, the two are entirely different. The experience of a living, breathing, tiger vs a photo. We have stopped being in the world, smiling at strangers, listening to birds, exploring what is around is. We are raising a generation that is more tuned into a screen than reality. How often have you walked down the street and seen nearly everyone looking at their phones? Or a couple sitting together, staring at their phones. Watched a mom with her baby, eyes on her phone. The things we notice are the intrusions, leaf blowers, construction vehicles, horns honking. Things we want to remove, not things we appreciate. On a recent walk with a friend on a sunny winter day, he pointed out a hawk, a beaver dam, a beaver lodge, cottonwood trees, willows just starting to open their fuzzy little white buds, and ducks swimming in couples. No phones, no pictures, just the world around us.
This vacation is long overdue and a much needed respite from two years of pandemic. I feel so fortunate to be able to go away and forget some of the hard things we have been through. To close my eyes and take a breath. To look closely at the world around me and discover anew my love of nature. To feel soft sand beneath my feet. To watch the Cassiopea up close hidden in plain sight.