This morning I was reading one of my favorite blogs, SouleMama, where Amanda Blake Soule was writing about gratitude. Her little girl had pointed out that if she didn’t know what to write, she could just say “Thank you.” That got me thinking about a little project that my youngest, Ava, has embarked on this past month, and what it can teach me about gratitude and appreciation for all the little things in life. At age four, Ava has developed a fascination for taking photographs, and her subjects are wide-ranging, often very “everyday” in nature, sometimes hilarious, always kind of, well, fascinating. These are all her shots in the slideshow.
Like there was the one day she was let loose with the camera in the backyard and decided that the perfect raspberry was the theme of the day. So she took shot after shot of each raspberry she picked, held up with one hand and photographed with the other, and then of course ate. She takes random shots of toys, cats, her shadow, buckets, favourite corners of the house, cupboard doors, the floor, pictures (pictures of pictures, that is). At first I thought “Whoa, she is just filling the camera with all these photos and we are going to have to delete hundreds of images here.”
Then I started to really look at these images, and I started to see things differently. I started to see through Ava’s eyes, those fresh, unbiased, un-jaded, sparkly hazel eyes that see so many bits of life we never even notice. Ava was capturing all the little things that she loves, her special stuffed owl, her doll stroller, her crafty space, the way the light falls on the cat and the mums in autumn, photographs of all of us around the house, her favourite shoes standing on the beach. It is beautiful.
We often talk about living in the moment. I have just finished a really good eight-week course on mindfulness. But really nothing teaches us more about mindfulness than our children. They live in the moment completely and absolutely, without question or effort. This moment is what matters to them. Ask them what they had for lunch two hours ago and they can’t remember. Who cares about that when there are cartwheels to be done and much giggly nonsense storytelling to be had? Every day I try to take a deep breath and really listen to what they are saying, understand what exactly is the plot behind their latest Playmobil adventure, or discover why Ava is in hysterical tears when just a second ago she was giggling. (It is because she is four.)
When I do this, time slows. I stop seeing the laundry and the messy desk and the calendar and the fact that these girls STILL didn’t put any socks on. I just see them. And I am so grateful for that.