paying attention to small beauties,
whatever I have--as if it were our duty
to find things to love, to bind ourselves to this world.
-Sharon Olds, "Little Things"
There are windows where I am that have cast some kind of enchantment on me. You, dear reader, might call it a neuroses, an addiction, or just a good old-fashioned obsession the way they draw me in, hold my gaze and make it difficult for me to look away. Sometimes I think I came all this way just to watch the Kachemak Bay from these windows. Something about this scene, untouched and alive, in constant motion, silenced by the transparent barrier, like a moving picture that never ceases to surprise me.
The windows allow me the power of observation, from a sort of perch that gives me the perspective of seeing just a portion of the bay through a magnifying glass. The rhythm of her very waters is a dance like a debutant rippling her soft skirts, spreading them across the rock and sand with her generous invitation to all living creatures. She beckons the birds of her neighborhood to come and be fed, be filled, and be bathed in her spring rush. Graciously, the gulls take up the invitation to dine on the bounty she has to offer. The eagles, regal and stately as any Lord or Lady of the bluest blood, spread an impressive wingspan and soar past my windows, snubbing my stare, seeking some daily refreshment in the bay. I am amazed at the agility and precision with which they dive and retrieve an unsuspecting fish who seems to be equally fighting for his last breath and wishing for it. In the evenings, I watch her like a mother bouncing and coddling the sea otters like toddlers on her lap when they come to play and bob along her shores. All this, as the stoic mountains and glaciers look on from the distance, like the saints and apostles adorning Notre Dame.
The problem is that the more I watch through these windows, the more difficult I find that it is to tear myself away. I do get out and feel and smell and hear this magnificent place, but the view from the windows is like a drug. Through them I see miraculous pictures of the majestic, but unassuming pulse of wildlife moving, breathing before my eyes. I am a slave to the window’s charms, afraid to look away, afraid that I’ll miss something spectacular. I’ve heard rumors that a pod of orcas occasionally moves through this bay. I desperately want to see them and so I return to the windows, again and again, to maintain my vantage point and take in all it has to offer. I haven’t seen any whales yet, but my view never disappoints.
Today I found myself watching my children through the glass. They are just far enough away to be out of earshot and just close enough for me to observe the details in their delicate, clumsy play. I watch them in a way that I’ve never seen them before. Like I’m watching them for the first time in their natural habitat. They too are unable to resist the hospitality of the bay with all her mystical incantations. Just like the wildlife I observe taking care of its daily business, I watch my children manage the business of childhood, dancing under an intrepid sky, running (either fully clothed or nearly naked) in and out of the ice cold-water unaware of its stifling chill, giving in to preternatural impulses, singing or fighting or bathing in dirt. Among the rocks and the bones they find their playthings and with the birds and the fish, their playmates. I enjoy my perch from which I observe because there I watch my children less as a mother and more as one of a species. Were I standing next to them, I would at the very least discourage much of their unruly behavior and most likely bring it to a halt entirely. But instead I watch it play out. All of it, the bare-footed dancing, the fighting, their inherent fearlessness like indomitable Peter Pan and his entire crew of Lost Boys. I see them in a way, the way we should all be seen, as creatures grown out of the dirt earth reaching out to her for an experience, for the breath of living.
Later, the children and I took a long walk along the spit. We visited some of the little shops along the roadside, exploring the local human wildlife and then walked back along the beaches. I told my kids about the spell that the windows have put me under.
“I’m afraid if I look away,” I said, “I’ll miss something amazing*.”
To which my daughter, with all the reckless certainty of a 12 year old and without a moment’s hesitation responded, “That puts you in a very tricky situation. If you look away you might miss something amazing, but if you don’t look away you might miss something amazing.”
The rest of the walk back the kids took turns pointing out the things that they thought were amazing. For one it was a crab shell in one piece and another it was a cartwheel she just learned to do. For one daughter it was the way the tide swelled and receded and for my son it was the feel of the sand and shells between his toes.
I'm still drawn to these windows, and I still watch through them intent on witnessing every little miracle they have to offer me, but I'm realizing maybe its not really these windows. And maybe its not even this place. Maybe it’s a removal from something in my head or forgetting something I thought was important. And maybe it has something to do with what I’m looking for; what I’m expecting to find. Its something the children are teaching me: its in the details, the little things, the easily overlooked. Its about looking for windows.
*Merriam-Webster’s full definition for amazing: causing amazement, great wonder, or surprise.