I recently drove by the prettiest tree with green leaves and purple flowers. Then, I saw the same type of tree everywhere – in my neighborhood and in the landscaping in the parking lots at Alex’s karate studio, Target, and office buildings. I’m sure the blooms won’t last long, and the trees will simply be green for the rest of the summer, but for the time being, they’re gorgeous. This is our seventeenth summer in North Texas, and we’ve lived in the same house and city the entire time. It’s not like the trees are new because they are tall and mature. And yet I’ve never noticed this type of tree before now, but once I saw them, I couldn’t unsee them.
At first, it bothered me that I’d been so unobservant. I couldn’t understand how I’d missed them. Was I so distracted I didn’t see beauty in front of me? Was I so busy or stressed about other things that I was unable to “stop and smell the roses” so to speak? But then, I reframed the situation. Maybe if after all these years, I could find something previously unnoticed that now brings me joy, then I might discover other opportunities to notice things that I haven’t yet identified in nature, in my community, and in the people I know.
During the Covid lockdown in the spring of 2020, we obviously spent a lot of time together as a family with Ben working at home and the kids Zooming in for school. During that time, I realized that my son Clay, who was 10 at the time, was much more laid back than the rest of us. I’d assumed that we were all high strung and anxiety prone as that was my frame of reference, but because we were together as a family 24/7 for months, I saw his personality in stark contrast to his siblings, Ben, and I. Clay had an innate ability to let things roll off his back. He didn’t get as upset or worried as the rest of us. He didn’t have strong opinions on what we ate or what movie we watched. I felt like a bad parent because I hadn’t truly grasped his easy-going traits before then, but once I saw and understood his way of being, I couldn’t unsee it. Instead, over the past three years, I’ve been highly cognizant of his personality and have made sure we press him for his opinions at times so that he feels seen and heard.
While I’ve felt some distress for not noticing things that perhaps should’ve been more obvious to me, I’ve decided to focus on the beauty inherent when I notice things for the first time. If we remain open to learning new things and willing to let go of our assumptions about situations or people, we may find our hearts and minds expand. We can better appreciate the true essence and authentic nature of the people who fill our lives with meaning if we allow them to show us who they are.
I’ve taken a bunch of pictures of all the purple flowered trees I’ve seen in the past couple of weeks. In part to capture their beauty, but also to remind me to be open to the beauty that can catch us by surprise and teach us how to see with new eyes.