There’s a phrase that I often hear, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” The title of a book published in the 1990s, it’s become a sort of catch-phrase for those who want to simplify their lives and cease getting worked up about little things. Today, as I was staring into a dense hedge, I was thinking about “small stuff.” Specifically, Vapourer moth caterpillars. (Now you see why I need the specimen pots mentioned in my last post.)
My four year old son was on a quest to collect one of these brightly-coloured hairy fellas, and the pressure was on. We stared, we crouched, we looked at the underside of leaves, we found evidence of munching, but alas, the caterpillars weren’t about. Last week we saw two, this week none.
He got bored and ran off to the skate park. I stayed on in that hedge because while I was there, I noticed that the blackberries and sloes were ripening. I watched a spider deftly spin silk around her lunch, turning it round and round in the centre of her web. I felt the waning warmth of the early autumn sun on my brow, and the breeze gently lifting the downy hairs off my forearms, bringing with it the scent of seasons changing. Inhale. Exhale.
This was small stuff worth noticing.
I agree that there’s no point in worrying about little things. But I don’t think “small stuff” should be ignored. On the contrary, noticing the little things in life and cultivating a mindful awareness of things we usually take for granted can bring a sense of perspective, and ultimately, peace.
When I consider the worlds of activity that happen in the undergrowth, in a tree, beneath the sea, even in a single droplet of pond water, I stumble afresh upon my place in this world. When I make my awareness microscopic, I realise that I am simply another creature in this world: putting on the macro lens gives me the wide angle.
This is a daily meditation.
Each day, as you go about your business (preferably outdoors), take a moment to notice what you see, what you feel, what you smell, what you hear and what you taste. Stoop down and check out what’s happening in the grass. Look up at the sky and watch the clouds and the birds. Lie on your tummy and stare into the depths of a pond. In spite of what is happening for each of us in each moment, our daily struggles, worries and cares, the world continues to turn. Birds continue to migrate. Plants and animals perpetuate the cycle of life, reproduction and death. We are all a part of that. There is something deeply reassuring about all of this, and we can access it in a moment. Inhale. Exhale.
As soon as you finish reading this, go stand in a hedge for a bit. And if you see any Vapourer moth caterpillars, I’ve got a four year old who would be very interested in hearing from you.
©2014 Lisa Hassan Scott