Change and Transformation, Life Lessons

Autumn and Lessons on Seeing the Unseen

“Ook! Ook!” My daughter’s chubby finger jabs the air. I have no clue what she wants me to see. 

“Ook!” she insists. Her tiny hand—pillowed in baby fat and dimpled at the knuckles—points again. I crouch beside her to align my view. She smells of that delicious kid scent: soap, sunshine and maple syrup. Clear, wonder-filled eyes meet mine as she pulls me closer. Her lips form a little “o” as she whispers “Ook, mama!”

Finally, I see what she sees.

One tiny green worm—seemingly suspended in air—floats a foot above her. It twists and wiggles. The light breeze sways it like a pendulum. Right. Left. Right. When the sun is just right, I see the single silken cord connecting it to the branch above us.

She was right to be amazed. 

She was right to make me look. 

If she hadn’t pointed it out, I wouldn’t have seen this at all.

How often does this happen? We miss things that make another–child or otherwise–stop in wonder and awe. That tiny green worm dangled before me many years ago, yet I’m still schooled in this same life lesson nearly every day. 

Slow Down. Look Around. Be in the Present.

Life hurtles along. Days blur on the calendar. Schedules are followed. To-do lists are checked. Then suddenly something forces a stop and I see all the stuff I’ve been missing. Right there, in front of me, all the wondrous detail I’ve not seen suddenly appears. 

And every time, I’m surprised.

It was there all along. I just didn’t notice.

As a kid I had a love/hate relationship with the old black and white optical illusion books. Remember them? At first glance, there’s an obvious image. But a more patient look reveals another image. A young woman and a witch. Or two faces and a vase. I always struggled to see more than the first one.

Eventually—usually with help—I’d see it. Shock and surprise filled me. How had I missed it? It was so obvious! How was it even possible? The picture hadn’t changed, but there were two different images in it.

Seeing the unseen requires letting go of the predictable.

I know I’m not alone in that struggle.

And yet it’s amazing the magic that appears when an angle is adjusted, the lens widens, and a new perspective emerges.

On a recent pinkly-lit morning, my slippers, coffee and thoughts joined me on the patio. Inside the house, my kids–now teenagers–stumbled and stirred, readying themselves for school. But outside, the quiet October world was mine.

October is complicated for me. Beautiful, yes, but a little melancholy. I’ve written before about the In-Between Time.  Summer fades. Daylight wanes. Garden plants die back. Birds and retirees migrate. At the same time, there’s a burst of colorful change.  Sometimes that feels unsettling to me.

That morning, as the daylight lifted, I practiced my often-overlooked credo: Slow Down. Look Around. Be in the Present.

A silvery glimmer caught my attention.

A tiny, perfectly executed spider’s web sat clinging to branch tips. Morning dew highlighted its intricate construction. I was awed, both by its complex execution as well as its camouflage. It would’ve been easily missed. Had I not looked at that exact moment, I wouldn’t have seen it. When the sun rose higher and the dew dried, it grew nearly invisible again. 

But, that day I paused. Took a quiet moment. Slowed down. Remembered that little girl commanding me to, “Ook! Ook!” Acted on awareness.

And the unseen became seeable. 

I can’t say my check lists are abandoned. Staying present is a lifelong practice for me. But I’m learning to pause. Take a moment. It seems the more I’m willing to crouch down and look at stuff from a new angle, the more magic I discover surrounding me. And nothing surprises me more than the unseen becoming visible.

How about you? What’s been hidden in plain sight in your life? What’s begging to be seen within…or around…you?

If this stirs your soul, I encourage you to take some time with these questions. Journal or think on them in the coming days. And as always, I genuinely appreciate any thoughts left in the comments below.

12 thoughts on “Autumn and Lessons on Seeing the Unseen”

  1. Barb C says:

    Thank you for this! As always, absolute perfection! I needed this gentle reminder to slow down and to be present!!!!

    1. Katie O'Connell says:

      Thanks, Barb! You aren’t alone; I need constant reminders of this!

  2. Ruth Karasek says:

    Wonderful thoughts! Thank you. I hate to think what life would be without the surprise element, though. I’m glad to be surprised. 🙂 are you taking your own photos? Lovely

    1. Katie O'Connell says:

      Wish I could say they were my photos, Ruth. Mine wouldn’t capture things as beautifully. I leave those talents for others!

  3. Peggy says:

    Beautiful Katie. Your dad and I do a lot of this these days! It’s a beautiful world we live in!
    Love you. Peggy

  4. Cindi Allen says:

    I love your writing, Katie. So simple and fresh. Yes, we need to be reminded to slow down, be still and be child like.

    1. Katie O'Connell says:

      Thank you for the kind words, Cindi! I agree…it is looking at life with the awe of a child. Love that!

  5. Kelly says:

    Your writing really makes me FEEL. Feel connected. Feel inspired. You have such a gift <3

    1. Katie O'Connell says:

      So grateful for that kind of feedback! Thank you deeply!

  6. Therese says:

    Love this reading especially coming off the Indy 500 of life. The unexpected snowfall today could have been just a nuisance without the moment to appreciate its beauty lightly flocking the trees. Always a good reminder to “ook”. Thank you.

    1. Katie O'Connell says:

      Thank you, Therese! I’m quite familiar with the “Indy 500 of life” as well. Glad you found a moment to appreciate the beauty around you. A good reminder for me to do the same!

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