When I was in third grade, I used to make these tiny little representations of objects out of the smallest scraps of construction paper.
This was during a sort of “creative downtime” that we had in school (a gift I’m guessing many kids today don’t get during school hours).
I’d cut microscopically small pieces of paper and methodically glue them together to make an ear of corn. A flower. A radio. A cluster of hearts.
None of them bigger than half the length of my young fingers. Nothing about them was particularly remarkable artistically, other than that they were a) very small and b) pretty accurate representations.
This interest in the little things has carried over into my adult life. Details matter to me. I am caught by the smallest details as I walk. A tiny leaf and how its edges catch the sunlight. A random marble found on the ground—I’m grabbed by its opaque luminescence and compelled to stop and look further.
Details matter. They are where the beauty is found.
In the intricate latticework of a woven scarf. In the variations in the colors of grains of sand you can see when you look closely.
You can see when you look closely.
The way the morning light catches a thin layer of frost on a railing, sparkling. Beauty can be found in the most ordinary things, but only when we slow down to notice it. When I do this I feel like the richest person in the world, surrounded by abundance of a kind that no amount of material wealth could replicate.
Things cause suffering. We fear losing nice things, or damaging them. But moments of beauty are borrowed and returned with interest. Everyone benefits when one person points out the beauty of a sunset or a nearly full moon.
I took a mindful photography class that was all about slowing down to capture an image that arrests us, and my brilliant teacher called it “a profound exercise in gratitude.” Those words and the instruction she gave me were a gift, restoring a childlike perspective I used to revel in when I was seven, when I could stare for an hour at a single wild flower.
Details matter. When a friend or a student says something ordinary or offhand, but layered underneath is a plea to be heard, a call for compassion. A call to serve that you can only hear when you listen closely.
Slowing down allows us to take in so much, and if we’ve been running, that can be an overwhelming moment. But if we look for beauty and view it without judgment and listen with kindness, the details will come together and weave a patchwork of lessons that will cloak us in understanding. We can let anyone in under that tent as we share what we learn.
Details matter, and of course so does the big picture. For instance I almost missed my train writing this.
Author: Rebecca Polan
Apprentice Editor: Sarrah Chaouki / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Image: Author’s Own