Seasoned Seeing

By Ian Anderson

My wife and I lived in Nashville shortly after we were married, and even though we were there for a brief period, the memories I have of that time are deeply set into my mind. It was there that the spring rain did a work on my senses; it was there that the Second Street blossoms downtown opened my eyes. I began to read more about the outdoors. I discovered an article about the massive California redwoods, and it gave me images of a separate ecosystem that I haven’t been able to shake. Even though I was well into my twenties, it was like I was living my first spring.

All was new.

For about a month I searched for a job. My mornings were spent in the public library so I could use the Internet; before I got to the computer lab, however, I would stop where I knew the books on art were kept. It was there I learned to see Van Gogh again, his paintings and sketches of the poor helping me build compassion for the homeless of the city I just walked through.

When I finally found a job, my eyes were opened once again. I ended up working as a substitute preschool teacher for two and three year olds, and it was exhausting. The long commute only added to the fatigue. Soon, my wife joined me at the preschool, and we shared the work and the drive. In the midst of the new experience we learned a lot about children, and we still talk about the little ones who ran circles around us every day. In fact, it helped us make lasting decisions about how we parent our boys now.

As I saw the trees and flowers, painting, and the needy (both the homeless and the children around me), I also rediscovered Charles Dickens. In high school I detested the one and only novel of his I had to read, but David Copperfield sparked my interest, and since then I’ve come to appreciate more of Dickens.

All these experiences convinced me that not everything we’ve tried once — or even things we’ve seen or heard too many times to count — is done giving us joy.

I climbed trees as a child, but I never knew how breathtaking they would be to me as an adult; I had seen flowers bloom, yet I didn’t know how I would long for them when they wilted in the heat; paint and pencils were things I’d tried and looked over, but seeing Van Gogh’s subjects come alive around me on the streets made me actually stop and act; children, I knew, were always selfish and tiring, but to care for a child made me want to care for my own; books, perhaps, went back with me farther than the others listed above, but I see now that a second try is worth the time.

This spring, look at what you’ve already seen — but see it this time.

Ian Anderson is a teacher, a husband, and a dad. He lives with his family in Central Kansas. Occasionally, he tweets here: @ian_writes.

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