I'm writing a book about the five senses, and I was drawn to this subject, in large part, because I'm so unaware of what's going on around me. I very easily get lost in my own thoughts, and I don't notice the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures of the world.
As Andy Warhol observed, “Nobody really looks at anything; it’s too hard.”
I embrace anything that helps me to pay attention. Sometimes, I've found, a person's offhand comment will help me to experience the world more vividly.
In the Great Hall of the Met, in five giant urns, towering twelve-foot-high flower arrangements change every Tuesday. These beautiful flowers add a lot of color and life to the museum.
I often text a photo of the arrangements to my mother. In response to one photo, my mother replied, "I love flowering branches."
When I read that, I thought, "I love flowering branches!" Of course, I knew I loved flowering branches...in the spring, I made a special point of visiting Central Park to look at the crab-apple trees, the cherry trees, the magnolia trees. But somehow I'd never really quite noticed that I loved them—I'd never identified and articulated that love.
Knowing "I love flowering branches" makes me experience the world in a different way.
Years ago, my daughter Eliza and I went to Bloomingdale's together. As we walked through the doors, she inhaled deeply and said, "I love that department-store smell." And I realized, "I love that department-store smell!" I loved it, but I'd never noticed it.
Now I try to pinpoint any aspect of my experience that I particularly enjoy.
I love miniatures. I love twinkle lights. I love saffron. I love walls of books. I love gardenias. These days, I push myself to explicitly notice these loves, rather than take them for granted.
I like any exercise that helps me to notice. Every year the color company Pantone identifies its "Color of the Year"—or, as they did in 2021, two colors of the year (Ultimate Gray and Illuminating [yellow]).
Some people dismiss this yearly announcement as a stunt that doesn't mean much, but I like being reminded to appreciate the power of color. Just as Valentine's Day reminds me to appreciate my sweetheart, and Labor Day prompts me to reflect on my work life, Pantone's announcement of the Color of the Year reminds me to contemplate my love of color.
Has anyone or anything helped you notice something—that you love? Am I the only one who finds this challenging?
One Last Thing
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