Saturday, March 29, 2014

Seeing with new eyes

We went to the library yesterday and is was woefully lacking in any interesting stories. (I can often count on at least one interesting conversation while I'm there. This time? Nada.) But because it was so calm, I was able to leave the littles playing in the play area watched over by the very capable A., and went upstairs to the stacks to browse. Oh, how I love to just browse in a library! I have come across the most interesting books just wandering past the shelves. And they're free... any book I want to read I can take home.


What was I talking about?

Oh, yes, the interesting book I found while I was wandering.

I happened to be in front of the home decorating books, which I sometimes find interesting, though, admittedly they are not usually healthy for me to look at. I find shelter-type books to be particularly good at creating envy and discontent and try to be careful with them. A huge one struck my interest, though, so I picked it up. It's called, The Way We Live: An Ultimate Treasury for Global Design Inspiration by Cliff Stafford. (It's huge and out-of-print and very expensive... the link is here just so you can see it and then check it out of your library. It's too bad, I would have bought myself a copy if it was reasonable.) This book is mainly photographs of houses and towns (living spaces in general) from all around the world. There are plenty of palaces and chateaux, but there are also much more modest homes throughout its pages. It is fascinating to see all the different types of places people live. (I actually wish it were bigger and had more countries.) Plus, the photography is gorgeous.

Aside from just being interested in houses and decorating (not that you'd know it to look at my house), what I found most intriguing was the idea of how we view things. I always imagine that it is far more glamorous and interesting to live somewhere else. Where I live is, by virtue of being familiar not terribly interesting. Other places? I find them endlessly fascinating and always wonder what it is like to live there. Life in those places must be so much less mundane. Yet as I looked at these photographs, it crossed my mind that while some of the homes and places seem incredibly exotic to me, for the person who lives there, it is just their house and would they find my living situation to be equally exotic.

You know, I kind of liked the idea that my living situation seems intriguing and unusual to someone. I started to look around me and wondered how the photographer would photograph my home. What would he find interesting? What would he take pictures of? And if I saw them in a photograph, would I look at it and thing, "How cool would it be to live there?"

Here's my challenge to you (and to me): Look at the place where you live... home, city, area, etc... and begin to see it with new eyes. Not all of the photos in the giant book were of pristine homes. Some were small, some were cluttered, but through the lens of the camera, all were interesting. Think what a mood lifter that would be to think of your home as interesting, unique, worthy of attention. Stop seeing your surroundings through your same tired eyes and look at your surroundings as an interested stranger. There may still be some things you want to change, but it is easier to change things with a positive attitude.

Let me give you an example. Some of the photographs were views from the homes, the scenes the windows of the homes looked out on. As I was sitting at my desk writing this, I realized that my view is rather unique, though I really don't think about it (or appreciate it) at all. Here is what I can see through the window above my head.

It is one of our city's larger churches, built in the Gothic style of architecture. While I think I long for beautiful natural vistas out my window, I admit that this isn't a bad thing to look out on every day. I need to work on appreciating what I have and not what I don't.

Will you take up the challenge as well?


Betsy said...

Another blog that I follow,, has a weekly feature called "Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real" where she invites you to find contentment in your own life and home, taking pictures of the beauty around you. This post reminded me of that.

sabrina said...

Your blog reminds me of myself. I have to remind myself to be thankful for my little 2 bedroom condo with few windows, and many problems. I don't so much enjoy going to other people's houses because we live in a very affluent area and I find it can make me discontent. I have to remind myself of the beautiful weather, 15 minutes walk to the beach and the blessings in staying home with my children. It's a matter of perspective. It's a good reminder. Thank you.

Rebecca said...

I just revisited this post today in order to find the title to request this from my library network and clicked on the link on a whim. There are now used copies available in the $18-35 range. :-)

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