Why is this beautiful to me?

Don’t lean in, lean back.

Who would think that I would find beauty in the Essex Green parking lot? Home to TGIF, Radio Shack, Panera, Petco, Macy’s Express, and what replaced the Hallmark Store — AAA? A shopping center modest by design, and a parking lot that should be patently unmemorable. The commonest of places, whether you’ve lived here three months or 27 years.

But, oddly, that’s where I see my best sunsets. I guess because it’s on top of a hill.

And there’s something else. The parking lot might have moved me because of the errand I was on: picking up some scratchboards at Jerry’s Artist Outlet. Scratchboards, in case you don’t remember, are those things we played with in elementary school, where you scratched the black off and rainbow colors filled in the lines. The grown-up kind, with silver underneath, cost just $5 a pack, can make even your Scrabble scribbles feel like art. And just passing all those tubes of paint, sketchbooks of every shape and size, on the way to the scratchpads, gave me my usual Jerry’s high.

Then there’s the fact that I’ve upgraded my phone. Funny story. I took a spectacular fall on a sidewalk in Hudson, NY, one evening last month because I was looking at my phone instead of noticing steps that didn’t belong there, and the cheap Amazon Blu I’d been using for six months, with the really crappy camera, was smashed to smithereens.

A blessing in disguise. The new phone has a fabulous camera. Doing a credible job even under low-light conditions.

This is the view from my driveway. And look at those branches set against a mooncloud! This was what I saw when I came home from Essex Green.

I guess what I’m saying is that beauty is everywhere — just waiting for you to notice it. Yesterday, though frustrated by my slow progress on a story I was writing, I heeded the call of pleasant weather and went out for a walk. And listening to the last three episodes of the Gimlet radio drama “Homecoming,” I wandered for an hour and a half.

Finding a fallen limb that looked like a checkmark.

And a driftwood display behind a modest suburban apartment building.

Which is all a long way of saying that I’m beginning to notice things.

And noticing things is the beginning of having time work for me rather than against me. Of feeling time not as something that passes way too fast — a current delivering me all too quickly toward old age and death — but something that instead delivers the wonder I remember from earliest childhood.

What could be better than finding your own neighborhood bewitching?

My new motto is: Don’t lean in, lean back. Get up from your desk. Get high. Go outside.

And while you’re cheating productivity, pay attention.


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