Over the weekend the weather was gorgeous here in Ohio. Almost like summer, we had bright sunny mornings, birds singing, and balmy breezes. Naturally, as might be expected of responsible adults, my husband and I spent Saturday morning finishing up the tax forms and taking them to the post office. Then he fired up the push mower for the first time this year, while I started cutting back some overgrown bushes that I hadn’t gotten around to pruning last fall. I also dug a few dandelions out of the flowerbed in the side yard, which will need mulch before I plant the flat of snapdragons I just ordered.
Sometimes I miss the little girl I used to be, waking up full of joy to be alive and running outside to play, maybe still in a nightgown. Why take time to dress when there were so many adventures waiting to be discovered? The world felt magical—like being inside the pages of a storybook, full of beauty and wonder. Without thinking twice about it, I would happily lie down in the grass and watch a bee buzzing in the dandelions.
Growing up often means letting one’s mind get cluttered with what-ifs. Instead of watching a bee in the dandelions, an adult might think: If I did that, I’d get grass stains on my clothes. The bee might sting me. A biting fly might decide I’m tasty, or a millipede might crawl up my sleeve. What if a curious skunk wandered too close while I wasn’t paying attention? Maybe even a rabid skunk—hey, it could happen.
Besides, lying down in the grass isn’t something that mature adults do. The neighbors might think I fainted, or fell and broke a hip, and call 911. Worse yet, someone might start a rumor that I was drunk and passed out. Gossip like that grows legs—why risk it? And what are those dandelions doing in my nice neat suburban lawn anyway? Better go get some weed killer before anyone notices them.
Although these worries may look ridiculous when written out like this, we routinely have all kinds of what-ifs sitting at the back of our minds with the other mental clutter. Often we don’t even notice because it has gotten to be such a matter of habit. We’ve filled our minds with socially-based expectations for how our days should go, and any deviation—or perhaps just the thought of a deviation—automatically triggers the scripts for our internal naysayers.
And even if it didn’t, chances are we’d get bored pretty quick watching a bee in the dandelions anyway. We no longer have that childish mindset of living in a magical world full of amazing discoveries. Unless we intentionally practice mindfulness, many of the things we loved as children don’t even cross the threshold of awareness once we’re adults. By then, our brains have become very efficient at subconsciously filtering out unimportant distractions: a bug in the weeds, no different from thousands we’ve seen before, no reason to notice it.
Realistically, we couldn’t get much done in today’s busy society if we lacked that filter and always got distracted by every little thing we saw. Experiencing a natural world rich in detail might have worked well for our hunter-gatherer ancestors, but it’s more of a liability to modern humans, now that most people’s work involves abstract mental tasks. We tune out the distractions because our adult responsibilities don’t give us much choice in the matter. Even so, I believe that our busy, task-oriented minds would be much refreshed by pausing, every once in a while, to notice the beauty in the dandelions before we spray them or dig them up.
Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.