Notice, savor, and enjoy small, slow, and simple things

What beauty are we blind to? — Toby Ord

Thornton Wilder’s play, Our Town (for which he won a Pulitzer Prize), is about life in Grover’s Corners, a small town in New Hampshire. One of the main characters is Emily Webb. The play follows her from a precocious young girl through her wedding to George Gibbs, and her early death.

In act three, Emily returns from the afterlife and visits her hometown, wanting to relive one day—her 12th birthday. She joyfully watches her parents and some of the people of her childhood, but her joy soon turns to pain as she realizes how little people appreciate the simple joys of life. She realizes how every moment of life—particularly the small, simple, mundane aspects—should be treasured. 

When she visits her grave on the hill, she says, “Good-by, good-by, world. Good-by, Grover’s Corners…Mama and Papa. Good-by to clocks ticking…and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths…and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you.” 

She then looks toward the stage manager and asks abruptly, through her tears, “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute” The stage manager replies, “No. The saints and poets, maybe—they do some.” The play ends.

I’m admonishing myself in this post. I like to stay busy: I always have a to-do list, I’m goal-oriented, I don’t like to waste time, and I’m inordinately time-sensitive. But I’m missing out on a lot of wonderful things in life. I need to recalibrate my life so that I notice and savor small, slow, and simple things that don’t cry out for my attention but will reward it. 

Things like: Buddy’s bark, Benjamin’s freckles, a perfectly shaped cluster of grapes, a well-tuned chord, holding Mary’s hand, a fresh blackberry, a perfectly still lake, a well-written phrase, a kind gesture, growing a plant from seed, the sound of thunder in the distance, the smell of a sliced lemon, gravity exerting its influence on a tomato plant.

Psychologist Carl Rogers noted, “The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.” He advocated launching “fully into the stream of life.” Our lives will be richer if we embrace adjectives such as enriching, rewarding, awe-inspiring, meaningful, and yes—small, slow, and simple.

14 Replies to “Notice, savor, and enjoy small, slow, and simple things”

  1. Don,
    I love these thoughts on savoring the small things. This has been exactly what Dave and I have experienced that last couple of weeks after recovering from COVID. A forced rest caused us to SLOW DOWN and start to appreciate many of the things you mentioned. Dave has a new hobby of baking beautiful loaves of artisan bread. We savor the smells and crackles as it comes out of the oven. I’m sorry we had to learn the hard way due to illness, but it is a lesson I hope we never forget.
    Grateful for you,
    Cathy Carl

    1. Thanks, Cathy, for sharing your thoughts. I’m so sorry you and Dave had COVID; I’m glad you’re coming to the end of the tunnel and are healthy. Baking bread – what a delightful hobby. I know Dave is also a master furniture builder. Hobbies are important in life. They often slow us down, distract us in a good way, and cause us to see and appreciate simple and small things. Take care.

  2. Thank you for your transparency. One would think the pandemic could help us to seize the moment, but many of us miss the “full” life. Perhaps your communication can help us.

    1. Thanks, Irene, for affirming words. Being sequestered at home may give us more opportunity and time to notice and savor small things. I’m growing some Naga Viper peppers in my study (they are one of the hottest peppers known to man) and enjoy tending to them daily. Take care and be safe.

  3. Beautifully written, Don, and exactly what I needed to read today after crying myself to sleep last night in my selfish depression. There is still much to be thankful for in my world and I only needed to be reminded that God is right here with me.

    1. Anita, I am so sorry you are feeling bad. I have suffered from depression–it is a deep, dark hole. Be sure to reach out to health professionals who can help. I pray God will see you through this difficult season. He will.

  4. Thanks for this post, Don. As a 9th grader, seeing “Our Town” presented by other students, I was very moved. Especially in our time, I believe we will increasingly need to be aware of, and gently help each other to notice, the “small things.” Awareness can stir the very crucial perspective of gratitude. One of the mottoes on my desk is “Wander often. Wonder always.” God’s gifts and mercies are ever new.

    1. Sharon, your words are well said and worth saying. I like your tie in to gratitude. I am grateful for the bowl of cereal I had this morning – crispy cereal and cold, fresh milk. Take care.

  5. Your article this week reminds me of why we holiday in France. You visit the market and the sights and smells of the fruit and vegetables are a delight to the eye and the nose. Fresh bread, cheese and tomatoes are all I need for lunch. If you visit in July, you can see the ballet of the sunflowers. Add my precious grandchildren to the mix and there is nothing more satisfying. The French understand what makes life enjoyable.

    1. I’ve heard the statement: Americans live to work; Europeans work to live. There’s truth there. I’m so glad for your holidays to France; they sound wonderful.

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