(With apologies to Marcel Proust for both stealing and butchering his quote.)
One of the remarkable things about the south of France is how effortlessly beautiful everything seems to be. When I left my apartment in the morning and walked to the Institut, I was greeted with a clear sky over Villefranche, the sparkling blue of the Mediterranean, the smell of jasmine.
You didn’t have to look hard to find something spectacular. And, to our credit, I don’t think any of us took that for granted. Not a day went by without someone commenting on the view, the weather, or the easy beauty of our temporary home.
Needless to say, it’s a bit more challenging to find that kind of beauty once you’re back in your everyday surroundings. Familiarity may not necessarily breed contempt in this case, but neither does it lend itself to breathtaking moments.
I have to look a little harder, and be more creative, and make an effort to uncover and encounter what is beautiful here at home. I know, it’s not like I live in the middle of nowhere. I’m fortunate to be in a major city (at least by some standards) that is lovely and historic and hosts over 12 million visitors a year. Those people are coming here for a reason, right?
So for the past week, I’ve been doing my best to put myself in proximity to the beautiful things around me. I’ve done this in two ways. First, I’m opting to do everyday activities in nicer settings. Instead of my usual run on the paved streets of my suburban neighborhood, I’ve hit the trails in the Middlesex Fells. I’ve taken long walks in Breakheart Reservation and around Lake Quannapowit. I’ve strolled around Boston and explored the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Later this week I’ll go biking in Concord and get to Walden Pond for a much-needed swim. Some of these places are a bit out of the way, but I’m well-rewarded for the effort.
The other, harder, part of the equation is to try to find the beauty right in front of me, in the seemingly ordinary things that I see everyday. Harder because it requires me to take off my rose (rosé?) colored glasses and stop comparing everything to France. Harder because it calls for a mindfulness and attentiveness that is difficult to muster, and more difficult to maintain.
So that’s the challenge before me, as I try to transplant the wonder I felt in France to the lovely things in my own backyard.