Years ago, when money was especially tight and we didn’t have any “legitimate” reason to buy “real” art, I was captivated by a painting I saw hanging at our local library.
(Yet another thing I love about our town library – each month they feature a new artist. Rug hooking, watercolours, architectural photography, bold paintings by Indigenous artists; you name it, they’ve likely showcased it.)
Every display also contains a write-up about the artist and, on a whim, I decided to reach out about our favourite piece (by this point I had dragged John to the library to see her paintings, too). Imagine our delight to learn it was priced at $125.
Now, at the time, $125 still felt like a very big expenditure for something that was purely aesthetic. I’m sure we (okay, mostly me) hemmed and hawed, but we agreed to the price and the piece was soon hanging proudly in the living room of our tiny apartment. It mesmerized our babies and I loved to just stand and stare at the painting. I have always been captivated by the motion of ocean waves and the beauty and power represented in this piece remind me so much of our beloved Peggy’s Cove.
When we moved to our current house we couldn’t find the right “home” for this painting. It was too small for over the couch, not the right colour palette for the family room. Decisions, decisions.
So, temporarily, we settled on hanging it over the stairs leading into our basement. This ledge is visible from our kitchen and I walk down these stairs a dozen times a day. But here is the sad truth…
I never notice the painting anymore.
It’s right there in my line of sight, but my eyes never linger. It’s like the painting has become invisible. And that makes me sad.
How often something we love – be it a beautiful piece of art, the blooming tree in our front yard, a friend, spouse, or child – can be right in front of us, and yet we hardly take notice.
I think this is normal in many ways – but normal doesn’t mean we can’t battle against the status quo.
Here are two thoughts:
- The onus is on me to notice. The art doesn’t change; it’s always available to me. But I have to make myself available to appreciate it.
- Proximity matters. When something is relegated to a corner, it’s not going to get the attention it deserves.
So bring out the pretty china handed down by your mother, take the time to snuggle with your children, call your friend, frame and display your favourite poem, spend the extra 20 minutes on Saturday morning to linger over coffee with your spouse and look out at the tree in full bloom on your front yard.
And for goodness sake, let’s all move our favourite paintings (or plants or books or mugs or childhood figurines of Garfield if that’s what floats your boat) to a spot where we’ll see them every day. And then let’s open our eyes to the beauty that’s all around us – just waiting for us to take notice.
Because, as Mary Oliver writes: “Attention is the beginning of devotion.”
I have to ask myself – am I paying attention to the right things?
Have you encountered this phenomenon in your own life? Any advice for how to celebrate the beauty that is accessible but often forgotten?