Fresh Eyes

by Lauri Gwilt
September 14, 2017
Fresh Eyes
Fresh Eyes

We were six or seven years old at the time, he and I. Although we were cousins, the distance between Brazil and Canada meant we hardly knew each other, but of course that rarely matters to kids. Friendship takes mere minutes.

It was winter in the late 1960’s. Christmas, actually. A cold snap had enveloped Vancouver Island, but it didn’t hamper our daily excursions to introduce he and his sister to the part of the world his father had grown up in. One afternoon’s adventure, though, would remain etched in my memory for the last 45 years.

Happily occupying the backseat together for the unbearably long drive, our umpteenth game of Eye Spy was interrupted by an announcement from the front seat. “It’s snowing!”

Our backs promptly straightened to peer out of the window to witness the flakage for ourselves. Immediately I began to list grand plans for snowmen, snowball fights, and carving snow angels in undisturbed blankets of snow. I looked at my cousin to confirm his shared enthusiasm for my plans, but what I saw was an expression I didn’t quite recognize. “Why wasn’t he nodding his head, jumping up and down, and agreeing with me?”, I thought to myself. Recognizing my confusion, my grandmother smiled and offered, “He’s never seen snow before.”

My grandfather pulled the car over so that my cousins could fully experience the snowy white puff balls that were falling from the sky. I remember watching my cousin intently. He didn’t say a word. His head was tilted back. His eyes were intense. He raised his arms above his head, his upward-facing palms wide open. Slowly he lowered his open hands to his chest, so he could get a closer look at what he had caught. 

That was the first time I remember witnessing wonder, and I’ve never forgotten the impact it had on me. There is a kind magic that occurs when things are seen with fresh eyes, and I instantly adored the sensation.

As the decades marched on, and I raised my own children, we've been blessed with a glorious amount of those magical moments, which usually prompted me to think about my cousin’s experience that day. Its impact permanently set my mental radar to be on the lookout for those moments of wonder and awe. The magic is electric, and filled with possibility, and I want as many as I can in this one lifetime. Some years ago I stumbled upon a quote written by French novelist Marcel Proust that added a much-valued layer to the whole idea of wonder and seeing with fresh eyes.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Can we develop new eyes on purpose? I think it's imperative. The longer we’ve seen or known something, or even someone, the less we tend to see them. I think it's a human condition. Familiarity and usualness can cause a kind of blindness that slowly steals wonder, awe, and sometimes even gratitude. At the very heart of fresh eyes is curiosity, and I hope I remember to be curious about everyone and everything for my days here on earth.

The essence of Proust’s quote is also one of the reasons I fell in love with photography. Even if I’m photographing my thousandth sunrise, or the millionth flower, each time I look through the lens I get a pair of fresh eyes, and get that hit of magic I’ve come to cherish.

The true gift of Proust’s quote, however, is when I discovered how to embody his message with respect to the big stuff… me, my life, and the people in it. Fresh eyes are a conscious decision – and not always an easy one – but what I know for certain is that they have allowed me to continue to celebrate who I am, what I’m doing, and who I’m with...no matter how old I get, how long I've been doing the thing, or how long I've known someone.

Thank you, cousin, Mr. Proust and of course Mr. Jones. Whether you’ve known it or not, you’ve all been my guides for how to celebrate what’s right in my world.

 

Back to the blog

I see this amazement and wonder on a regular basis. I see it when teaching kids and adults how to ride a bicycle for the first time (the first time they successfully pedal a bike and their smile is really awesome). I experience it when my husband and i take people on bike rides and hear their exclamations of the beauty we ride through. We have gone to the same areas and ridden 100's of times - we know its beauty which is why we continue to go back, but after all these years, we sometimes take it for granted. Sometimes we need to hear others experience it for the first time to remind us of why we continue to return any chance we can. We just led a bike ride in one of our favorite areas and rode with some folks who had never ridden in the area before. They were blown away by the scenery. It was a good reminder to continue to look at areas with fresh eyes.

Ohhhhh...that feeling of our first successful solo ride! My bike was white with red trim, it had sissy bar handles and a banana seat and I was SO PROUD in that moment I became a bike rider! The sense of accomplishment and freedom was exhilarating and forever etched in my mind - thank you for the flashback memory and for offering this story Connie! I agree with you that it's so easy to take the things for granted that are 'usual' in our lives. Seeing those things through someone else's lens has a magical way of waking us up. Can you share what part of the world you're sharing with your bike riders? We's all love to know!

Thank you the thoughts. As we open our selves to the wonder of nature, we become more open to other people that are decidedly different from ourselves. Who knows, they might have an inside that we've never thought of.....

Well-done/thought/said Mike! I could not agree more! Thank you for taking a moment to offer these great insights!

Powerful message to keep life alive!

I wholeheartedly agree Carol! Thank you for taking a moment to offer your comment!!

An excellent account! You've saved those moments in your memory, and these days we can do so digitally as well. I took a short video of my grandson reveling in the cold spray of a garden hose after a swim, and quite a while ago I posted a still of that moment. Thank you for your insightful blog.

Great addition to this post Anita! You're right, we have the privilege of not only saving our moments of celebration in our memory, but also electronically. This is one of the reasons I think the Celebrate movement is so powerful. When we share these moments with the Celebrate community in the form of images it allows others to easily share in our celebration...which means others have a chance to benefit from the good feelings as well. We'd all love to see that image of your grandson, if you felt like re-posting it on our new Celebrate What's Right Open Group on Facebook!

It seems like each of your new blogs soon becomes my "favorite" as it touches me deeply and causes me to look closely at how I view my world and try to make each day matter in order to live it to the fullest. Proust's quote and Dewitt's vision are both exemplary models of thinking that will enhance our life experiences in so many ways. Recently I posted an image of a sunset from my kitchen window and commented to someone that there is a tree in front of the setting sun the blocks the best view, but I can to my dining room to get a better view and photograph. One of my dear celebrate friends wrote me back and simply said "but the tree is pretty cool too". New eyes can lead to a whole new appreciation and a fuller experience of everything and everyone in our lives. As for relationships, they often get "tarnished" by day to day moods, experiences, familiarity…and the list goes on. Just think what will happen if we get out our "polish" and get rid of the blemishes by remembering and cherishing all of the good things and love that has brought us together for the purpose of "happily ever after". Thanks again, Lauri, for another fabulous life lesson and encouraging us to remember the importance of Vision!

"New eyes can lead to a whole new appreciation and a fuller experience of everything and everyone in our lives."

"Just think what will happen if we get out our "polish" and get rid of the blemishes by remembering and cherishing all of the good things and love that has brought us together for the purpose of happily ever after."

Both of these sentences you wrote hit the proverbial nail directly on the head Barb!! As always, you seem to have a way of summarizing my posts that feel like you tie a big red bow around them!

Lauri, your words are so captivating. You have always, and will continue to inspire me to be a better Me. Today I will put in to practise, the gift of "Fresh Eyes". Keep writing, creating, and sharing <3

Dearest H,

Thank you so very much for offering these words! They filled my eyes with tears, and my heart with gratitude...

Love, G

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