Learning To See: Pt 1 - From The Air
I’m writing this post as I pass over the Midwest on my way to Boston. I have flown this route countless times, living in Colorado and being from south of Boston where my elderly mother still lives. While this might not be adventurous or romantic travel, it’s still an opportunity to see with fresh eyes. (All of the photos shown were taken on this flight).
But what if this sometimes boring and familiar route was my very first ever flight? Would I gasp with delight at the polkadot irrigation patterns across Nebraska? Or find that the thrill of lifting off could send a surge of dopamine through my veins? And what of the anticipation of the floating air sculptures - what will they be this time - the towering cumulonimbus clouds or the feathery cirrostratus clouds? (don’t worry, I had to look those names up too)
Flying is a wonder, lest we never forget that! Sure, those of us who are frequent flyers could exhibit blase boredom, with no interest in the window view, scrolling through the latest news cycle. But instead, what if we approached each flight with this statement:
I get to fly today - imagine that!!
Everything is an opportunity to see more wondrously and that’s the magic of travel. But we settle into lackluster visual assumptions about our familiar world. We become lazy seers and stop witnessing the world around us as the diverse beauty that it is.
So now, imagine - we have the birds eye view! What a gift! If we are lucky we might fly over the great canyons, or witness the branching river beds of the Mississippi or the Danube. We might catch the pure full spectrum color of the waxing and waning light of sunrises and sunsets above the clouds. Have you ever approached the Seattle airport to see Mt. Hood and Rainier piercing through the dense cloud cover - their perfect volcanic cones catching the sun? And what about the deep blackness of night punctuated by the sparkling glow of urban centers?
And who doesn’t have a flying story! The time I flew Polish Air back in the day from Bangkok to Warsaw (smoking to the left, non-smoking to the right!) everyone standing with a drink in their hand like in a mid-air party bus, the free vodka liberally consumed. Soon there was a punch-up saloon brawl, people passing out in the aisle, and the pilot had to come back and straighten everyone out!
But I digress.
The point is to always be seeing, openly with curious eyes. Whether in the air or on the ground. Stretch yourself to be present in your seeing. If you don’t already, book a window seat on your next flight and look out the window every 5 minutes, making note of the subtle changes.
Or on the ground, go for a walk and find 3 things you’ve never noticed before. Take photos, write about it in detail, sketch it in your journal, no matter how ordinary it may seem (or crude the sketch). These images and moments may even find their way into your paintings, but that’s irrelevant for now.
Mostly this is about the presence of seeing, a life long practice of mindfulness. Anywhere, anytime. No matter how seemingly mundane. Always there in front of you - to wake up to.