Keep Your Eyes Open

“It’s all a matter of keeping my eyes open. Nature is like one of those line drawings of a tree that are puzzles for children: Can you find hidden in the leaves a duck, a house, a boy, a bucket, a zebra, and a boot? Specialists can find the most incredibly well-hidden things.”

Page 19, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard

When I look at something I tend to perceive what I see in various stages. First I only see the shallow and superficial part, but most of the time I’m able to tell whatever it is that I’m seeing by this. As time passes I see into more detail. It’s not possible to calculate the exact amount of time it takes for someone to see the details or for someone to finally fully understand what they had been looking at all along. It may take a few second and it may take years and maybe the image is never fully seen and understood.

To be able to see the most well-hidden parts and meanings of something we need to keep our eyes open. If we accept the superficial part and just move on we might not even realize that we have moved on without really seeing the entire image. It is kind of upsetting, but I believe that we do this most of the time. I think that most of us accept the shallow outlines and move on without ever looking back, unaware of what we are missing.

As a child I wanted to see new things all the time. I wanted to discover new places and I accepted whatever I saw, thinking I wouldn’t need to come back because there is nothing left to be discovered. I guess most children get bored of one thing pretty fast and want to move on to the next. So I was no different.

When I was young we traveled a lot, we went to see new places, but we also revisited what we had already seen. I usually preferred to go somewhere I hadn’t been to yet or I wanted to revisit a place I had really liked and I wanted and expected to see the exact same thing. I did not understand that there are new things to be discovered in places I had already seen. I did not understand that there can be something hidden underneath the superficial surface and I didn’t even care.

Year after year we would go to the same camping place near our house. It was beautiful there but on the way there were also other camping places and I used to wander how they were. I used to ask my parents why we never went to the other camping places because I did not understand what it meant to them. I saw that one camping place had gotten a trampoline or a waterslide and I immediately wanted to go there instead, but we never did.

We always went back to the same camping place and at some point I realized that even though I thought I knew everything about it, I actually didn’t. Every year we met new people and made new friends and every year we discovered something new in the camp or the nature. We sat at the same table, but talked about different topics. We ate the same kinds of foods, but it had a different taste. We swam in the same sea and canoed down the same river, but we saw new plants and animals. And every time I went through the same metal door which just stands there, not surrounded by walls, I felt different.

At some point I realized how valuable the place really was and it seems like a ridiculous idea to choose to go to one of the other camping places nearby. I started understanding that the part of the sea I was swimming in was not just a random cove, but the cove my father had been giving surfing lessons in his youth. The restaurant was not just a place with some tables and food, but a place filled with my mom’s memories of her summer job, taking care of the owner’s kid. Most importantly though, the place was not just a random area where people occasionally came to spent their vacation, it was the place my parents had met for the first time, a place I had spent a great amount of my childhood in and a place I had always been happy in until it transformed to become a place of even more memories. Those memories though were of a different kind, they were memories of death, fear and despair. The place still holds all the happy memories though, but they are covered by a black fog.

When I went back the last time I tried to keep my eyes open. It’s hard to see through a fog, especially one you have created yourself because you don’t think anything underneath the fog matters anymore. Each time we walked to the sea, on the narrow path which I know by heart, I tried to fight against the fog. So I started concentrating on the nature surrounding me. I saw the beauty of it and realized that it had changed. The trees had grown, the forest had thickened and the area I thought I knew so well had transformed, so that I was able to see entirely new things. Just like Annie Dillard says,“ nature is very much a now-you see it, now-you-don’t affair.”

One night we decided to go to the beach and watch the sky. I fixed my eyes on a really bright star above me. I don’t know how long we stayed there exactly, but it was more than an hour. The bright star was hypnotizing and I was getting tired and would have fallen asleep if it hadn’t been for my friend who pointed out something on the water. It appeared to be a boat and a light, but I had no idea what it was exactly and I didn’t care much either, so I decided to just go back to watching my bright star. The problem was that when I looked back at the sky I didn’t only see that star. All of a sudden the sky was full of stars and I realized that I had been so fixed on watching that one bright star that I hadn’t been able to see that the sky was lit up by endless numbers of them.

Somehow I had only managed to notice the entire sky after almost an hour and only after looking away and back again. Like most things, the sky is not just flat and shallow, but made up of numerous small parts. In order to really see, we indeed need to keep our eyes open and sometimes it takes a lot of time and may even require letting go and coming back later. Annie Dillard states that “it’s all a matter of keeping my eyes open,” but I think it’s more than just that. One also needs to be willing to see more and be open minded and often it also requires patience. I guess the major part though, is still keeping your eyes open..

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