Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Little things

I was in Maine this past weekend. One afternoon after the workshop ended, I drove around to see sights. It was, after all, my first time in Maine. I loved the rocky coastline and the working fishing boats in the harbors. I loved the trees and the granite outcroppings. I loved the white wooden houses with their flat fronts against the narrow streets, so proud and forthright. On my map, I noticed that there was a lighthouse nearby, so how I could I resist? I headed over and walked the trail that led to these stairs. I have to admit, even from this perspective, the lighthouse looked small. I mean, I have read about lighthouses (they are a particular interest of mine) and seen some in Florida and Oregon, and they'd all been big. This one didn't seem so big.
 When I got up to it, I realized that my original perception had been accurate. It wasn't big. I wouldn't want to live in it, the way some people lived in lighthouses. I found out later that the keeper's house was built two years after the lighthouse, so apparently there was no need for it to serve two purposes. It did the job. It had all the requisite parts of a lighthouse--and it's been there for 150 years (built in 1852!), so it is obviously useful. It was tidy and sturdy. Small, yes, but just what it needed to be. Kind of cute, actually.
Today I read a picture book called Little Bird (Germano Zullo). It's about the little things in life that matter. In the book--which I HIGHLY recommend--the author says this: "Most of the time we don't notice these things. Because little things are not made to be noticed. They are there to be discovered."  I reflected (not for the first time) that big things can be impressive just because of size, but little things (people, events, emotions) matter, too. Little things others do matter to my life: the smile of a stranger, a text message from a friend. The small things that make me smile (my 3-year-old grandson had his mom text me a picture of a piece of an apple he'd shaped with his teeth into a boat) and the small moments that matter (a former student just stopped by my open door to thank me for helping solve a problem last week) are the things that help to make the foundation of a life. If we discover them. They are, after all, not made to be noticed. I have to look for them. Little things. Discover. Good reminder.