Remembering to Smell the Flowers

photo by Amanda Sandlin

photo by Amanda Sandlin

By: Caroline Rubach

I have recently moved to a new country for eight months: I am studying abroad for the academic year in a place I have never previously traveled to. The transition has been entirely smooth: smooth, meaning that I am completely captivated by the rich, community-oriented culture of the Argentines and am absolutely in love with the Spanish language that sings so sweetly to my ears. The gift of moving to a new place is that everything surrounding you is foreign to your senses; you become more conscious of that which is around you; the newness injects intentionality into your actions and your observations. You feel acutely aware of where you are, what you are tasting, who you are sharing experiences with, and just how romantic the world around you truly is when you take the time to engage in it deeply.

And then comes Distractions: a plague that hits us all at the most untimely of times. After life has been enchanting in this new place for a few weeks, slowly but surely, life begins to become “normal” again – we seem to convince ourselves that everything about being alive is mundane. Schedules become more heavily relied on, meetings – even coffee dates – seem to pile up and slide in to neat hourly slots, to-do lists seem to be endless, requiring too much effort in too little of time. These things that are (maybe) necessary become the very things that contribute to our ailment of blindness. These things that we assign ourselves to do are now the things that are blinding us from the life happening before our very eyes. And we become numb.

I have seen this in my own experience here, much too soon. Life has become comfortable where it previously sparked attention and focus in my discomfort; it has become mundane where it previously romanced me with its vibrancy and distinct beauty; it has become lulling where it previously inspired a fire of passion and exuberance for this intricate thing called life before my eyes. And what I have come to realize is that what has begun to recede is not the beauty and wonder of life all around me, but the eyes and soul that I have been given to take it all in, to drink of it deeply.

Whenever my vision for the intense wonder of life begins to fade, I now understand why. I have allowed myself to become distracted. Distracted to the point of numbness to all my senses, which are the exact things that tie me to the physical space I am in, to the people I am with, and to all that lies within the overwhelming feast before my unfocused eyes. I have narrowed my sight to focus on things that I have yet to do and must be done. But all that distraction in return for the loss of a life lived fully engaged.

Like people have surely told you, there is a difference between hearing and listening. I will tell you with certainty that an even more serious offense is seeing but not experiencing, The gap between these two things makes all the difference between a life lived and a life lived to the full. Twenty years, fifty years, eighty years from now, I hope that I will look back and say that I did not live my life doing things that merely filled it if I cannot certainly say that I lived my life fully, deeply intent upon experiencing the great depths of that which I see all around me. Because I was given the gifts to do so: the ears to listen, the eyes to observe, the taste buds to savor, the nose to inhale deeply.

photo by Christine Farha

photo by Christine Farha

photo by Christine Farha

photo by Christine Farha

I woke up this morning and I chose to reengage. I chose to be intentional. I chose to be grateful. I woke up this morning and I sat down to enjoy breakfast – I truly tasted the sweetness of the jam on my toast. I walked down the street – I looked at the faces that I passed and wondered of the stories that each person has to tell – both beautiful and terrible. I sat in the sunshine – I shut my eyes as I felt its saturating light warm my skin. I lay awake a few moments before bed – I listened to the cars drive by as I fell asleep, imagining all the destinations of tomorrow.

And suddenly, this world around me became one that flourishes, one that harvests hope, one with fascinating stories of unveiled beauty. This world is once again a place full of souls that are infinitely deep, waiting to be explored; there is hardship worth enduring, hope worth experiencing, love worth basking in.

Be intentional in noticing these things in the in-betweens of today, the things we too often brush off as mediocre or as unworthy of our glances. Because whether you view the world as a place worthy our time to “ooh” and “ahh” at, or merely a place of transit, the undiscovered beauty of the world remains, and it is calling your name. Beloved, take a moment, smell the flowers, come in closer and join me in the love story that has been sung since the very day that you were born.