“Things aren’t always as they appear.” A very wise woman gave me those words of caution many years ago. I was in the middle of a discussion making a judgment. I did not know the “whole” story and therefore, what I assumed was very wrong. Funny how little memories like this can just leap into your conscious from time to time. Stranger still to remember during the season of year when things are definitely not what they appear!
With spring arriving, I decided it was time to get into a regular exercise regimen. I usually walk, but I wanted something a bit more aerobic. I decided to get a bike. Should be simple, however, I wanted the kind of bike from my childhood. The old-fashioned kind of English rider on which I took my first wobbly spin around my Aunt Edwina’s neighborhood with my cousin Skipper running beside me calling out encouragements like, “Watch out for that pole,” and, “There’s a wall at the end of that hill!”
Now, anyone who has gone shopping for bikes of late knows that the rage is the “all-terrain, mountain-road” bike. It has a zillion speeds, is lightweight and can fold up to the size of a credit card. All kidding aside, they are very high tech and I have simple needs. I opted for the old-fashioned kind of bike, the kind Sean Connery tooled down the streets on in movies about old writers. Little did I know the difficulty one would have finding such a vehicle!
After visiting various bike shops and several second-hand shops, I had almost given up. Then I was compelled to stop into a very little antique shop. (Remember, things are not always what they appear.) There in the back was an English bike. It looked new. Its price matched its looks! I was disheartened. Seeing my face, however, the shop mistress smiled and handed me the name and address of her parent company. She assured me that I would find just what I wanted.
Fifteen minutes later, I was in the middle of a huge warehouse filled with all manner of collectibles. This place was a recycler’s dream. Old doors, cabinets, china, lights, books, tools filled every inch of space. In the middle of the conglomeration of stuff was a collection of old bikes. It took me about three seconds to pull the one I had been dreaming of out of the pile. It was dirty; it had a little rust here and there, nothing serious though. The tires were flat and the brakes would need adjusting, but it fit the bill perfectly. An inquiry with the proprietor let me know it was well within my price range. Sold!
Several hours later, brakes adjusted, tires pumped, WD40 liberally squirted about; I was ready for a spin. How wonderful it was to ride down the street and notice the beauty of my neighborhood. We miss so much of life by our incessant need for speed. Too often, we miss the beauty of the gardens and open spaces around us. Traveling at this kinder, gentler speed, the splendor of an entire bank of daffodils filled me with awe. The returning songbirds serenaded me. I enjoyed the scent of the earth awakening from the winter and that wonderful green smell of fresh cut grass. These were all things I would have missed in the rush of my automobile.
As I road along absorbing the wonder of the moment, I began to muse over the fact that so many times in life we fail to see what is really there in front of us and subsequently judge a situation without knowing what is true. We spend a lot of energy not really noticing our surroundings or the people around us. We say hello to folks, but seldom do we really listen to their reply, yet we assume we know all about them simply because they exist in the same space as we do.
In the book, The Little Prince there is a well-known quote about how, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” We often make judgment calls on situations or people based purely on what lies on the surface of a situation. Seldom do we even think to take the time to find out the facts. As a writer, I strive to learn all the facts. There would simply be no substance to my writing, if I only wrote about what appeared to be obvious. In order to appeal to readers, a writer has to discover
what lies beneath the obvious or, what looks like the obvious.
I remembered a seminar I attended given by Dr. Bernie Siegel. He was talking about Peace, Love and Healing, his latest book at the time. He made the point that we all needed to stop rushing through life making judgment calls and take a few minutes really to know each other. He suggested that we be daring. Ask the clerk behind the counter where they got their dress, or inquire as to a person’s health and really listen to the reply. If they say, “Oh, I’m OK,” ask them what that means. However, he cautioned, we must stop falling into the habit of judging a book by its cover. In other words, a cranky person could really be someone exceptionally nice but for the fact that they are in great pain or under great stress. Subsequently, a constantly cheerful person could be someone who is also in great pain or in great stress but just hides it well. How many times have we learned of a sudden change in someone’s life (illness, death, or divorce) and said, “Boy, I never knew. They always seemed so happy?” We never know if we never take the time to care and find out the facts.
By the time my journey around the block ended, I had come to realize the blessings that came from not judging a book by its cover. If I had never ventured into the tiny antique shop, I never would have met the woman who saw my disappointment and gave me the address of the warehouse. If I never entered the old mill building that housed the warehouse, I never would have rummaged through the bits and pieces of yesterday strewn about and found my bike, for which I was grateful.
We all have miles to go in learning the lesson of seeing with the heart and not judging others. However, just as spring reminds us that things are not always what they appear by bursting through the grayness of winter, we too can have a reawakening of mind and spirit, blooming in the joy of seeing “what is essential.”