In Paris I went to neither the art academy nor to the professors. The city itself was my teacher, in all things, in every minute of the day. The market folk, the waiters, the hotel porters, the farmers, the workers. They were enveloped in something of that astounding atmosphere of enlightened freedom that I had never come across anywhere else.
Do you ever have moments where the veil falls away and the world presents itself fresh and new?
My wife and I spent a morning running errands recently and pulled up at a stoplight outside a cafe. A woman on a bicycle was propped beside our car waiting for the light to change. A couple walked, arms linked, in front of the stopped traffic. In the cafe every table was occupied, at least those visible from the street, and on each table there was at least one laptop open. One man looked through the window, checking out the woman on the bike.
I was struck by how particular this scene was to this moment, to this corner of the city, to the people present, and the activities they were doing. It was a grey Seattle day which threw a soft light over everything, and beneath the bustle of activity everyone seemed relaxed. Things moved in slow motion.
That moment will never be repeated exactly again.
Well it’s Seattle, so the clouds will probably be repeated. Never in that exact same way, though.
The woman on the bike will never lean in just that way, in just that spot, watched by just those eyes as she waits for the light to change. The relationship between the couple crossing the road will never be quite the same again. Tomorrow it may be deeper, or fonder, more fraught, or finished. The man looking out the window might never see the woman bike-rider again. Or he may see her tomorrow, run down the road and ask her out.
The light changed and we drove off. The moment of seeing, of really seeing that little scene, dropped away and a veil slipped back over the world.
I don’t remember much at all of the rest of the trip. I was caught up in thoughts, or conversation for most of it. We probably stopped at a few more lights at which nothing really caught my eye, and soon enough we were home again.
But that small moment outside the cafe stays with me. It was just a plain moment, but bright in its plainness.
I read recently that when visitors came to Chagall’s studio they had to wait for him to throw on a pair of pants, because he painted naked. That nakedness shines through in his paintings, too.
I love this gesture of casting away what stood between him and his canvas.
Brief moments where I see the world clearly make me realise how muffled my view usually is. It makes me wonder if sometimes I walk around like a guy wearing a pair of pants over my head.
I’m not sure we’re even built to see the world in all its brilliance all the time. I’m sure we gather that mental clothing around us in self-protection, but I’m also pretty sure I go through life a little overdressed.
One payoff from building your capacity to notice, to be present, is that the discipline in showing up regularly in this way ensures you’ll hit roadblocks and stop signs that occasionally strip away your mental clothing, forcing you to see things as they really are, if only for a brief moment, before the rush to cover back up again.
Wow, Dave, what a beautiful post. I was engaged from my first glance at the photo at the top. I really liked the part about Chagall and his pants, and smiled big at the image of you walking around with a pair of pants wrapped around your head. You are a lovely writer, and I’m glad we’ve connected.
Thanks for your lovely response, and I’m glad we’ve connected as well! I’m a big fan of Chagall and that story makes me smile. It was fun to play with the idea a little 🙂
Delightful scene. Thank you for capturing it and sharing with us.
Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the post!
Dave, This post is just a slice of life in all its brilliance! Great moment, great writing! Laughed about the pants over your head. Just perfect. xo, Reba
Thank you 🙂 the pants bit was fun!
Dave, I love your post! My friends often tell me I’m the most “present & mindful” person they know. I take delight in noticing all the little things like you described in your scene at the stop light. Your words brought that scene to life so vividly!
I love that your friends notice that about you! Being more mindful is a gift to ourselves and to the people around us. Noticing the small details in life is a great joy of mine as well, there’s so much beauty to be found in the world when we look out for it.
Delightful post, Dave! I love your images: your moment of clear, present seeing in Seattle…Chagall painting pant-less…you walking around with pants over your head.
Also love your message and your wording of things. I too am pretty sure I go through life a bit “overdressed.” Thank you for the reminder to continue growing my capacity to shed some of those layers and truly take notice.
Going through life ‘overdressed’ is still a thing for me too, I’m sure it is for everyone. At least it’s something we can easily work on whenever we remember to do so. Glad you enjoyed the post!
Thanks for sharing your lovely moment of being present. It is truly a blessing. 🙂
Thank you, being present sure is a blessing!
What a beautiful phrase, ‘cultivating presence’. which is what you did in this lovely post of being present. It takes an intention to be present in the moment. Thanks for the info about Chagall & a wonderful beginning.
Thanks! As soon as I heard that story about Chagall I knew it would find its way into a post.
I’m struck daily by the same thoughts… I guess I’m present, sometimes? 🙂 People are also surprised when I post something that’s an every day thing, but when I talk about it as an adventure. They are misguided thinking their lives are boring. Adventure is everywhere (!) and so are poignant moments as you describe. People just miss them. Well done.
I bet you are present at times! I so agree with you that adventure is everywhere and we just need to try not to miss it.
I do agree with everything you wrote. And that is why I do my blog. To do things, to inspire others to do things, not postpone it to another day. I will read more 🙂
“To do things, to inspire others to do things, not postpone it to another day.” I love that! Thanks for your thoughts, best wishes!
I could relate so much with this post. I strongly believe in savouring in all the delights life has to offer you, no matter how bad they taste. Sometimes, i just love to sit by the window and see life in all its prime. Such a pleasure it is to learn how we all are similar yet so different.
Sitting by the window is such a peaceful way to appreciate the world, isn’t it? And yes, we are all similar and yet so different, and that sure keeps life juicy and interesting.
We all get dressed in a way others want to see us or in a way others be impressed with us. And we end up hiding our real self. Its so true that we give importance to big events just because it impresses more spectators than our little happiness alone or with our loved ones. I feel the point is to give less importance to spectators and more love to one who shares every small moment with you.
That’s a really beautiful response, I savored every word. Thank you!
What an absolutely stunning post, I couldn’t agree more, we have those moments of pure clarity that can never recreate fully, even in our mind. It is like we live with a light diffuser on the lens caps that are our eyes and every now and then we remove them to let in the full exposure. So beautiful xx
Thank you! I love your beautiful metaphor of the light diffuser on the lens, that’s so fitting.
I don’t believe in coincidence. If something caught your eye, then it is for a reason. So for example, if you paid attention to that couple with the arms linked in front of the stopped traffic, it would be a sign that love is around you or you need to pay a little more attention to your wife. It is up to your intuition what this meant and why it caught your eye. Great writing, thank you!
That’s so wonderful, Zaria!
I agree that if something catches your eye, or ears, or heart, that there is some significance to it.
How true how often we miss life’s little moments. I love the idea of your blog being focused on prescence and being more observant. I am trying to “look up” more from my phone lately… it’s hard with technology now a days- it steals our mindfulness!
Oh, the phones. They sure make it difficult to stay in the present don’t they!
What a lovely post! Great to be reminded about blessings of being present in the moment. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks! And yes, always good to be reminded 🙂
I know exactly what you mean about moments when the veil is lifted. I’ve experienced a few myself. I think it happens when we stop seeing all of the obstacles and annoyances in our lives and simply appreciate the “now.” I’m enjoying your blog. Thanks for sharing your uplifting, well-written posts!
Yes, those obstacles and annoyances seem to be a big part of what makes up that veil. And they can be so subtle too! Thanks for the kind words, I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog!