There’s a spot at the end of our garden; a small clearing laid with bark, where there’s a little bench that looks back at the house. It’s become a favourite landmark for our family during lockdown, probably because it feels completely secluded, obscured from view from inside, and yet with a clear line of sight into the house. Now it’s approaching summer, I sit out there sometimes on a warm morning. I take a cup of tea, trudge up the garden in my pyjamas, and spend an hour or so drinking in the sun, feeling slightly smug for getting out of bed and “making time to reflect”.
It was on one of these mornings that I looked back at the house and saw my sister making her breakfast. It’s a strange experience seeing someone familiar from far off. It’s like a visual refresh; like they’re a stranger, or someone you’ve just met. We’ve been living our lives in close proximity during quarantine, and I forgot what it’s like to see her from a distance. Watching her from far away, boiling the kettle in her dressing gown, she looked like a different person. It was like I got to see her in her world, for a brief few moments, before I walked the length of the garden back to the house, and we entered our shared world again.
I think the same principle applies to lots of things in life, like when you’re in a gallery, and you need to step back from a painting to gain a better perspective of the colours and proportions. One thing I think we’re realising collectively during lockdown is that when you have more time, when you make space to slow down, you notice more. The birdsong. The smell of fresh coffee. Which of your neighbours comes out to clap for the NHS… We’ve reached a slowness that allows us to glean those extra details from life, enjoying the small and the quiet things – seeing them afresh – rather than always rushing onto the next big activity.
The things that are often the most important for us are obscured and hidden from view because of their familiarity and simplicity. In the busyness of normal life, we forget to slow down and give these things the reverence they deserve. The continued lockdown is disheartening, but it gives us the perfect opportunity to make the most of the extra time. Whatever it is that you notice, pay proper attention to it: whether it’s the sound of your kids playing in the garden, that extra sprig of parsley on top of your takeout curry, the crunchy chord in your favourite piece of music, or the colour of the sky. Let’s use the time to practise the art of noticing.