My sister has an evening ritual with her children, the Noticing Things walk, in which they appreciate (extra)ordinary things in their neighborhood. An airplane in the sky. A hollowed out tree trunk. A surprise heart.
I so admire this tradition, which is part of Lindsey’s broader effort to slow down, quiet her mind, and just be. She chronicles this journey so beautifully in words and images.
My branch of the family tree could learn from hers. Focus and quiet (and sometimes, sorry to say, gratitude) are in short supply around here. I know this is normal with a highly verbal five year old and a manic moving three year old, but it drains me. On Saturday after a full day alone with the kids, I had to shut myself in our basement playroom for several hours to recover. Have I mentioned that I’m an introvert?
And that’s just at home. Out in the city it’s more distracting. Jerusalem is notoriously over stimulating with way too much to notice. It’s so dense with sights, sounds, smells, history, conflict, and political and emotional “loading” of all kinds. There’s even a specific form of psychosis named the Jerusalem Syndrome.
Of course, our sabbatical year should provide ample opportunities for peace and observation. After all, we have a temporary respite from both of our jobs and from some of the regular bustle of life. And I am Noticing Things as I walk around the city — sort of. It feels like a set of almost accidental discoveries, taken in willy nilly. I am only just starting to learn how to sit down, stare, and breathe.
Much to my surprise, Hannah turns out to be one of my teachers in Noticing Things. Last week, we took the girls to the Old City to the gorgeous Church of St. Anne’s. Right inside the Lion’s Gate, this is a beautiful Crusader church with some of the best acoustics in the world. We shamelessly sold this outing to Hannah as “her church”, as Hannah is the Hebrew form of Anne.
She stood for ages in front of the state of St. Anne and the Virgin Mary.
And then, down in the shrine over the birthplace of St. Anne, she turned and asked me for some paper.
“Mom, let’s look around and draw things that we see.”
We sat together in silence for what felt like ages, though it may only have been five or ten minutes. (Long enough that Terence had to take Margaret outside to run around). It reminded me of an exercise from my Art History 1 class in college: sit in front of a painting for 30 minutes, making notes every minute on what you see. Hannah draw a gorgeous picture of the candles in the church. She could have stayed, looking and drawing, but her mother was getting antsy.
Notice Things. Draw What We See. Slow down, shut up and focus. This is hard learning for me, and a hard city in which to build these skills. But if my five year old can do it, I can try too.