Before my podiatrist and physical therapists advised I slow down (see previous post), I’ve been practicing the art of noticing my surroundings, and appreciating them. As with other writers, being aware of what’s going on around me is quite important, regardless of my genre or niche. Often, I draw inspirations for articles, stories, poems or blog posts from bits and pieces of events or things I see in my own life.
However, due to the many daily tasks I juggle, I believe, like most folks, I’ve gone through many years taking my surroundings for granted. Lately, I’ve realized that I wasn’t even aware that I wasn’t fully engaged—not seeing the little things.
No matter where you live, there’s a lot of beauty around you—even in your own neighborhood, home or backyard. But since we live within these places or see these things daily, their value may have gone unnoticed over the years.
Perhaps it’s through my kids’ past birthdays (where one reached a milestone year), or perhaps my own. Whatever the reason, I’ve become more aware of the passage of time, and am making a conscious effort to experience things anew and appreciate them as they’re happening, instead of when I’m uploading and reviewing the photos.
In keeping with this mission, this summer, while our kids are in their requisite foreign language classes, my husband and I’ve been exploring different parts of New York City and really taking in everything. As longtime NYC residents, we remain enthralled with the Big Apple’s hustle and bustle—the many winding highways, subway tunnels and bridges that connect to this urban island—to the beauty found within its gardens and green spaces, which dot its many neighborhoods.
The waterways and its activities are constant sources of calm for us. The Hudson and East River teem with puffed white sails and the occasional red or yellow kayaks glide past without a whisper. Our relative peace by the waterfront is often broken by the sound of motors emanating from the commercial vessels that ferry passengers to and from Manhattan. Yet, even these noises soothe our spirits—as these are intrinsic parts of living in a big city.
Since my literary focus within the last few years has been crafting pieces on local travel and lifestyle, our walking adventures have served many purposes. Currently, not only am I rehabilitating my flat feet by exercising them via our walks. But, we’ve been conducting field research for some of my writing projects. Together, we’ve retraced our steps to many places we visited during the first years of our marriage. We stood on the Brooklyn Bridge, which we crossed as newlyweds—participants for an MS Walk. We’ve crossed it many times afterwards with our babes either strapped to one of us in a Baby Bjorn, or fast asleep in a stroller. Years later, we crossed that same bridge as a family atop bicycles.
So far this summer, my husband and I’ve walked across five New York City bridges (four for the first time), and explored a great many neighborhoods. While our culinary adventures include fine dining venues, smaller eateries and local cafes within those areas, it’s the little and simple discoveries that entice our widest smiles and nods of delight.
For instance, while the Brooklyn Bridge holds many memories for us, it also does so for countless others who’ve marked their visits with engraved tokens they’ve secured onto the majestic structure for posterity (or as long as the City will allow it). While many of these keepsakes have been attached to this bridge for decades, I’ve never even taken the time to look at them closely as I traversed, gaping instead at the water scenes and backdrop as I crossed with the family to the other side, while snapping still shots to capture those all-important moments. Perhaps, I missed some “other” moments?
As we explored the local neighborhood and took a break at a nearby park, I found that by sitting at just the right place, it looks like the little whale is spraying water from its spout. As one photo illustrates, the fountains are completely separate from the whale. You had to be aware of the whole thing, so as not to miss the illusion.
Yesterday, after crossing our fourth bridge, and on our way to the fifth, my husband and I stopped to admire some ivy-covered buildings in Long Island City.
As the leaves danced in unison whenever gentle breezes blew, we noticed this happy little one, amongst the multitude. Had something else caught our attention, we might’ve missed it altogether. Thankfully we didn’t, since it caused us to break into our own smiles. Perhaps, the dancing leaves also stirred feelings of joy to whoever created this happy leaf—enough to impart his or her own carefully-crafted smile to the ever-observant passersby, prompting them to stop and enjoy the moment.
These little treasures are just a few from the many we’ve discovered. My husband and I have more places to explore and things to discover—especially since, we’ve actually been making the time, and are opening ourselves up to finding them.
Do you have similar stories to share? We’d love to hear from you.