The other day I was prepping a butternut squash for dinner, an activity that requires a fair amount of attention because it involves cutting through something quite hard and potentially slippery with a (hopefully) very sharp knife. This is not a day-dreamy kind of undertaking, like shelling peas or kneading bread dough. There was the squash strategy to consider, too. To peel or not to peel? (I usually try not to peel.) Peel first and then chop? (Depends on the variety.) How can I get nice, even cubes especially when negotiating the hollowed out seed area? (I can't.)
So there I was in my kitchen at the end of an average day, knife in hand and mind focused on the task in front of me. It was a pleasant place to be, at least on that particular afternoon, with oven-warmth relaxing my shoulders and the last streaky bits of sunlight scratching at the windowsill.
Soon the whole world was reduced to the rhythmic sound of chopping, the hum/hiss of the gas oven pre-heating, the last of the fall leaves crackling along the sidewalk below. The orange squash, cut open and sticky, lay next to a turquoise-colored bowl overflowing with a tangle of its strings and seeds. There was a touch of sweat on my brow and my belly rumbled a little, just on the verge of hunger.
It's hard to explain just how perfect this small moment of attention and beauty was. I think the best way to describe it is that there was no desire for things to be different, no wanting for anything, no sense of lack. Just a tiny bit of rumbling in the belly which was soon to be filled and an eyeful of beautiful squash in the tumbling half-light of a day almost over.
These are the moments to pay attention to, these everyday, nothing-special moments where it is possible for a simple but powerful beauty to step forward. Immediate and fleeting, it is not the kind of beauty that can be purchased or engineered or corralled into a picture frame. It can't be created or manipulated, so the trick, if there is one, is to just pay attention.
The beauty is already there; the only effort needed is to notice it. Just a quiet moment of attention and appreciation, and the simple, everyday, and utterly extraordinary song of being alive.
(Image: Dana Velden)