One of the great benefits of getting older, for me, is that I notice more beauty around me, all the time. When I was young, I was always restless. Always wanting excitement and adventure, always wanting to travel and see the world.
The irony of that is that only after I matured and actually did travel to different countries, only then did I appreciate the beauty all around me right here close to home.
Below, a view of Edinburgh Scotland, from the castle there, in 1988. For the first time in my 25 years, then, I was looking around, really noticing. This exact same view had hardly changed in centuries -- the sense of history, everywhere, was profoundly moving. I must admit, though, that I wanted to take back interesting photos, to remind me of the trip, or I wouldn't have noticed much. I was like my dad, zipping along as quickly as possible from one thing to the next. When I got home and really studied the photos, only then did I really appreciate what I had seen.
I took some good photos on that trip, but it wasn't until I went to Russia in 2003, with the choir, that I really became acutely aware of things. I was in a country so unlike America that I noticed everything. The beautiful churches. The potholes in the roads. The trash everywhere. The beautiful and exotic buildings. The faces of people so different from Americans. There were huge contrasts of the lovely and the ugly everywhere.
I love the photo below, because it was made the day after I had actually taken custody of Alesia, and we were walking down the street next to the beautiful Amur river in Khabarovsk. I was so glad the ordeal of that adoption process was over, and I had a little girl who was happy to be in a family, even if her mama bought her pants that were too short..
When I came home, I realized that there was a lot of beauty here, too. I was insanely busy, though, between work and being a first-time mom to a child that didn't speak English.
A couple of years later I adopted Michael, and my life began to be more about being outside, because Michael loved to play outside.
Below, a street in Petropavlovsk Kazakhstan in March 2007 when I was there for the first adoption trip.
I have written often about the extreme contrast between Kazakhstan and Atlanta in May 2007, when I returned from my second [and final] trip. After the ordeal of getting home, I wanted to weep at the sight of Atlanta's beautiful flowers and shrubs and trees, as soon as we got off the plane and were going through town in a taxi. Michael was stunned, looking everywhere. I imagine he felt like he'd landed in Oz.
Along with the [unnaturally hot] weather, though, he had a sister, Granny, uncle, and Mom who adored him, and a big backyard to play in. I like to think living here has significantly impacted the sweet, thoughtful young man he has grown into.
Since I have lived here these past ten years I have learned to notice the world. I notice our house, the pool, the tall trees, the streets not filled with potholes. I notice that we live in a lovely place. I used to say I never wanted to live in the suburbs, and now I've totally changed my mind. I love living here.
When I started walking Lola every morning some months ago, I started to notice even more. (I wish I had a better camera than my phone, but at the moment a new camera isn't in the budget.)
No matter where one lives, there is beauty there, if you look for it. You don't have to live in an exotic place. You don't have to have mountains or a lake in your backyard. You don't have to have a cute doggie to walk. Just look around. Notice. Take photos. Don't take photos. Remember.
God is everywhere, in everything beautiful.
Notice how nice it is to walk around and breathe in quiet and clean air.