seeing beauty without looking

Yesterday, at work, I was totally in the moment. I was at the coffee machine, I think it was a large latte with two, but what it was doesn’t matter. I was steaming the milk. The milk was swirling, hissing, the jug was becoming hot, the coffee had dripped through the filter, and my customer was waiting, watching our giant TV. I realized I was thinking about nothing. Not one thing. It was great.

I gave my being in the now a little look, a nod. I didn’t get excited because that would be extrapolating and all my now would be gone. I switched my brain back to the task. Took the cup from the machine, stirred in the sugar, poured the milk, placed the lid on the cup and served my next customer.

‘Large latte, with two please.’

The more things change the more they don’t.

I’m a worrier. I could worry for Australia. If worrying was an Olympic sport I wouldn’t need to sit any semi. I’d be in the final, in one of the middle lanes, because I’ve already done us proud.

I worry about my sons. I worry about my childhood. I worry about what my sons will think of their childhoods. I worry about the farmers and the weather and the economy and the government. I spend a lot of time on yesterday and too much on tomorrow. What will happen tomorrow?!

But losing my little sister, Libby, just over a year ago, and scattering her ashes at Platypus Rock, nearly a month ago, is teaching me.

Last week, Darren, Libby’s partner, and I went to the rock. We chatted about Libby and to Libby, cars went by, they sounded tidal, the river wasn’t as high as it had been and was running at a luxuriant pace. Libby’s ashes are still there, but they are reducing. We saw no animals, but heard the screech of galahs, and the gang-up laughing of kookaburras. I took photos. I’m after details although I know I’m absorbing them. In the car on the way back to his place I asked Darren how he felt.

‘Loose,’ he said.

‘Yeah, me too.’

My legs and arms felt relaxed.

I’m in moments everywhere. It’s peaceful.

On Saturday I was at Warandyte Market with a friend, Jenny, the same friend who saw the platypus with me. Warrandyte Market is on the banks of the Yarra, about a kilometre from Platypus Rock, and has a way of meeting you up with the unusual and the beautiful. It’s mostly people selling things they’ve made themselves, clothes, jewelry, food, soap. There are coffee carts, crowds – always crowds – and buskers.

There was a boy. About twelve years old. He had brown hair, was wearing a checked hoodie and black jeans. He had a microphone in front of him and he held an instrument – a clarinet, I think. He sang. His singing was beautiful. It made the hairs on my arms stand up, I listened to him, expecting him to falter because of his age, because of a crowd, but he didn’t.

His voice met my heart.

‘I’ve gotta get out of here,’ I said to Jenny.

I was going to cry like Hell in front of everybody because this beautiful kid wouldn’t be quiet.

He stopped singing. He played his clarinet and though it was as wonderful, I felt safe. There is something about the voice, they way it connects to our ears, the way another someone just like us can be so incredible and so themselves. Maybe that’s it.

The clarinet finished, the boy sang again and it was too much. I walked away wiping tears from my eyes. My glasses were foggy. Jenny wasn’t far behind me. I dug into my coat pocket, found a couple of tissues and handed her one. We cried and held each other. We were lucky. We got some coins together and wrote him a note and wrapped the coins inside the note. I made Jenny drop the coins into his collection – he was singing again and I couldn’t risk getting close. For the rest of the afternoon if I thought of him, that beautiful boy and his beautiful, unwavering, soft and strong voice, I cried the tears of somebody who has seen, and shared, something wonderful.

I’m not sure about the loss of my sister in all this. I may have cried had we come upon that boy a couple of years ago when Libby was alive and writing me hilarious letters and smoking her cigarettes super fast. I’ve always been sentimental. But these days I’m seeing beauty without looking, I’m appreciating without thinking, I worry less, and I’m often at peace without trying.


see those speckles of white?

18 thoughts on “seeing beauty without looking

  1. Touching piece. Please let little things inspire our lives even more than before. Libby will surely be happy wherever she is as you are all being thankful.

      • The boy at Warandyte is our son Ben. Thank you for the kind words about his singing. We have kept your note.. He was pleased to receive it. The note is special to us. I can relate to your grieving. I lost my brother in 2005.

      • Hey, thank you for finding me. I am rapt to hear from you. Your son, Ben, is absolute champion. I hope he’s at the next market (I will bring tissues in case). It was special to us to write to him – you can’t not say anything if you’re able to – and we are pleased he held onto the note. Also, thank you for telling me about your brother. And thanks again for finding me. Nicki

      • Ben will be there if it’s not raining. He sings down at South Gate at times as well. I have printed out Seeing beauty without looking and will read it to him. He will be pleased with how you described him. Please feel free (if you can) to speak with him in between songs as people do. Ben has touched you and you have touched us. Thank you.

      • Thank you! I will look out for him. Well, you have touched me. Here was a secret, I had a little cry when I read your response to the post. X

      • Hey I cried with the beautiful way you wrote it. Read it to him today and he was surprised with the connection and pleased with the lovely comments. I did tell him about your sister and he showed sadness. I nearly turned it into a literacy lesson going over your descriptive words about him as he does not enjoy writing but reassured him that he has done good and to be proud.

  2. There is beauty in the Now and Miracles in the little things. Like you, I am a Great Worrier, but there are times when I feel my mom (gone almost four years now) nudges me toward the Beauty and the Miracles. I am sure your sister is doing the same for you. Afterall, we may be stuck in the Mire of Everyday Life on Earth, but those two…why, they most definitely see the Big Picture and the importance of remembering the beautiful things around us.

  3. Howdy! This article couldn’t be written much better! Looking at this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept talking about this. I most certainly will send this information to him. Fairly certain he will have a great read. Thanks for sharing!

  4. The boy at Warandyte market is our son Ben. He has kept the note that you wrote and was pleased with getting it. Thank you for your kind words about his singing. I can relate to your crying. He makes me cry too. I lost my brother in 2005.

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