This morning we had waffles with blueberry-maple syrup for breakfast, and even as I added more wood to the fire and looked out over the more than knee-deep snow, I remembered the bright sunshine on my back and the rhythmic work of this day. One of the reasons I love canning is pulling out a little summer in the dead-cold of winter. What canning captures in a jar, writing can capture on the page if we really connect to our senses and our experience.
To get that kind of detail on the page, we need to start by really paying attention in the moment.
Last night I was reading a mindfulness activity from this book. In this simple activity you ask kids to pretend they are Martians seeing something from Earth for the first time. Hand them a familiar object, and remind them that they have never seen it before. Ask them to look, touch, smell, listen, and taste and describe their experience.
The example uses raisins and kids taste them, feel them, even listen to them. They really notice them for the first time in their lives. Are there things you see, eat, hear every day without really noticing?
I could tell you I looked out over the white snow, and yesterday in the blinding sunlight it looked that way. It’s white mostly, but yellow where the dog peed and a little dingy and speckled where the snowblower flung it early this week. It’s scattered with debris from trees and footprints that become violet-gray hollows as the light shifts. But sometimes I need to stop, look close, forget “snow is white” to notice that.
Try this mindfulness exercise yourself. You can use any object: raisins, your morning coffee, a dirty sock from the floor, a handful of snow. Imagine you’ve never seen it before.
Forget what you know or how you feel about this object, and simply observe it. After experiencing the the object fully and without judgment, write about it if you choose.
What did you notice?