Looking v. Seeing

A few weeks ago, I went hiking at Monte Bello Open Space Preserve with several members of my church’s college/young adult group. We made a 6-mile loop that took us along several prominent ridgelines and, most spectacularly, gave us a sweeping hilltop vista of the San Francisco Bay.
As one of my fellow hikers pointed out the numerous cities grouped around the Bay, I was awestruck. I recognized so few of them, knew so little about the geography of the area where I was born and raised. I keep good track of the places I go on a regular basis: friends’ houses, my church building, doctors’ offices, grocery stores. But the San Francisco Bay Area has so many mini-locales and sub-cultures, all packed into a relatively small space of land, and many of them I’ve never experienced. There’s so much to learn and do right here where I live.

 I was also taken aback by the beauty of this place I live in. I stood on the hilltop noticing, as if for the first time, the blue mist over the bay, the red-roofed towns clustered around the water, the chaparral sprawling over hills and valleys. After returning from 4 years of college in Seattle, I thought I’d never take the beauty of “my own, my native land” for granted. But even with the best of intentions, when you look at a place every day, sometimes you stop seeing it. The beauty of the places and people around you becomes pure routine, a sleepwalk through life.

When I stop seeing what’s around me, taking it for granted, I start focusing instead on what I don’t have: a car, a home of my own, a perfect plan for my future. I’ve heard that contentment, though, is not necessarily having everything you want, but rather wanting what you do have. And to want what you have, you first have to recognize and appreciate it.

On the hilltop I was freshly struck by the diversity and beauty of the landscape I live in. I saw my home as if for the first time. And I think that’s what gratitude really means: living life with eyes wide open for beauty, even the beauty of the everyday.

What do you see around you that you’re grateful for today? 

    2 thoughts on “Looking v. Seeing

    1. I have never heard of contentment described the way you described it. But that is exactly it. You must want what you have. As for me every day I’m thankful that I have hands and eyes that are able to help me create.

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