I step outside the cottage into the crisp morning air, in one hand I carry a cup of coffee, in the other Annie Dillard's collection of essays Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. The early morning sun glimmers on the placid surface of New Hampshire's Newfound Lake providing a perfect, peaceful setting to catch up on my summer reading. Accompanied by the cup of coffee, I sit facing the lake, open the book, and read a few pages. Suddenly, I come to one statement
In her essay, "Seeing," Dillard writes: "There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand." I read this statement, look up from the pages and stare silently across the lake. I simply stare; all of my senses are working overtime, absorbing the beauty of my surroundings. The smell of pine fills my nostrils; a warm breeze brushes across my motionless face; a small bass leaps from the water, producing tiny circular ripples which grow larger and larger as they spread silently along the still surface of the lake; the haunting cry of a distant loon echoes in my ears. I gather these "pennies," and graciously accept the "unwrapped gifts" that the serene lake offers me. I am awake, alert. I think it must be the coffee, but I know it is not. I lift my eyes from the water, and stare across the lake at the wooded hills trying to imagine the lake's appearance from the ridge that hovers above the lake's edge. I lift my eyes again; this time they become fixated on the wispy clouds that decorate the sky. The clouds still hold a slight tinge of red as the sun has not fully risen. I observe the clouds as they float above the hills, above the lake, and above me. I watch them turn from red to orange, and then to the familiar white with the rise of the sun. I am awe-struck, amazed, and curious.
That morning I sat and did nothing but observe; I observed everything and anything; I incorporated all of my senses, focused on my surroundings, and thought. This silent observation and reflection made me appreciate my surroundings, and the minute details that are often overlooked; it also made me quite curious. Why was the loon crying? Why does the pine tree smell the way it does? Why does the wind blow? I needed to know the answers. I was craving exploration ... I was craving knowledge. In those twenty minutes I learned a lesson that I will use throughout my life and never forget. It is a lesson that one can learn only through experience. So, observe: observe nature, people, and yourself, look at the details, accept the world's "unwrapped gifts," gather the "pennies." You will feel the curiosity ... you will feel the cravings.-
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.