Whatever we see is there

This morning I was walking along Santa Monica beach, enjoying the gentle washing of the waves and feel of soft sand on my feet. It was a luxurious time for me, because I dearly love the sea, and living in Seattle I don’t get to experience it as much as I’d like. As I walked I had a smile painted on my face from ear to ear. I was happy. Truly, deeply and without reservation, happy.

I stopped for a moment to look out on the ocean, enthralled by the progression of large waves crashing into smaller waves that tumble into yet smaller waves before washing on the shore. In the distance I saw two dolphins playing – I could barely make out there fins before they ducked under again and came up a few feet further along.

My spirit was calm and my senses were alive with the beauty of nature as I began walking back.

The beach was busy, but not overly crowded for a somewhat hazy Los Angeles Sunday. I walked past a young girl of no more than 5 years old. As I did I noticed her face was alight with the wonder that is only common among children. She was enthralled with the ocean, and delighted by her experience out on the beach.

I smiled at her and she did what I never thought possible – broadened her grin even further. Truly, today was a wonderful and special day for her.

As I continued I skipped through the lapping waves, and danced with a carefree joy. It was almost as if the young girl had given me permission to share in her wonderment. Emboldened, I look around at the laughing and smiling faces of other children on the beach, letting my soul soar to the heights of their joy.

Then I stopped, and felt a cold fog hit me and almost knock my emotions off balance. To my left was an older lady with a countenance that conveyed the opposite of what I felt. She was sitting on a beach chair, arms folded, hunched over, face pulled down. It was as if the day at the beach held no wonder or joy, but was a chore to be endured.

I steeled myself, gently filled my heart with loving thoughts and felt compassion for her. I did not know the journey that brought her to this point. It was not for me to judge her, for we all have gone through times that try the spirit.

Yet a realization was building inside me – one I had known but hadn’t experienced for a while. The same circumstance can bring joy to one person and pain to another. The same beauty can be looked upon with eyes that drink it in like a traveler finding an oasis, or passed over with the disdain of familiarity.

When we see something we not only perceive what is there, physically, we also see it in our mind’s eye. The internal picture painted is so much more vivid, alive with meaning and context.

I realized that for better or worse, whatever we see is there.

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