Any Ani Difranco fans out there? One of my favorite lines of hers, and there are a lot, is: “When I look down, I just miss all the good stuff, and when I look up, I just trip over things.”
It’s so true, and particularly in San José – where looking up too much means you have an unusually high likelihood of falling down a manhole, never to be heard from again.
But this morning I was walking on a path just ten feet from my porch and happened to look straight up, and realized that I was standing directly underneath a spider city. I counted 12 webs, some tiny, some massive, unbelievably intricate. It was a spot I have walked under approximately 100 times in the past few months, and never once did I notice that an entire soccer team of spiders was laboring right overhead, creating masterpieces.
It was the second time in less than 24 hours that nature had smacked me in the face, right in the middle of city: as I was having coffee yesterday, a glorious motmot came hopping right up to my outside table. We locked eyes for what was probably 20 seconds but felt like an hour. Having breathlessly surveyed this spectacular bird from varying distances for years, this up-close interaction felt like having a movie star sit down at my table with me. Can you imagine if I had been so stuck to my phone or computer that I had missed this altogether? Add a little more stress or a tight deadline to the scene, and I could have. Easily.
If you can do it today, look somewhere weird. Straight up the trunk of your favorite tree. Straight down from your office window. Find some angle that’s strange or unusual. As the things that draw our attention away from our surroundings grow ever more shiny and exciting and ubiquitous, the joy that comes from a sudden surprise discovery grows ever sharper.
I’m a writer in San José, Costa Rica, on a year-long quest to share daily posts on inspiring people, places and ideas from my adopted home as a kind of tonic during a rough time in the world. Sign up (top right of this page) to receive a little dose of inspiration every weekday in your mailbox; tell a friend; check out past posts; and please connect with me on Instagram or Facebook! You can also find me churning out small, square poems on any topic under the sun (here on the site, on Instagram or Twitter).
4 thoughts on “Day 49: When I look down I just miss all the good stuff”
In Julie Edwards’ children’s book The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles — which I read several times in elementary school — she exemplifies a similar dichotomy to that expressed by DiFranco. She has a character who carries an elaborate umbrella so that people will look up at it and then notice the world around them and its beautiful compositions. As they leave him, they hear a screeching of tires and horns and turn back to see, “[t]he little man
“…standing in the middle of the street, apologizing to a taxi driver who had nearly run him down. ‘I bet he was looking up,’ grinned” one of the characters, who is both sardonic and happens to be named Ben and I SWEAR that’s not why I liked the book so much as a child. (I liked it because it was about the tangible power of imagination and creativity and ti was written by Julie Andrews, but not under her stage name, and so it was like knowing a little special secret about the author when I talked about it to other people.)
HOW have I not read a children’s book called The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles??? I will aim to correct this immediately. Thank you… and I want this umbrella.