I love sparkles. I am drawn to things that reflect light, possibly because they catch my eye. I can be moving quickly through my day and a glint, a glimmer just outside of my path causes me to pause, to look more closely. To really see something that I would have missed had the flash of beauty not jumped out at me.
One of my favorite past times, hobbies perhaps, is ‘treasure hunting.’ I adore combing through thrift shops, antique stores and estate sales to find a treasure. When my kids were about 5 years old, my husband was traveling for work and we needed an evening adventure. I packed them up and took them to a local antique store. I gave them each $5 and set them free to find the best possible treasure. They set off in search of the perfect item-and I did the same thing. As we looked, we carefully lifted and examined so many things-items casted off by their previous owners. Finding a treasure actually elicits a celebratory response, when the perfect object settles in my sight-my heart races and a smile comes to my face. Seeing my kids return to me with their discoveries that evening was a treasure in itself. Their items were as different as their personalities, but each had selected something that brought them joy. Out of the clutter of the store, filled with so many objects both large and small, we had picked out something that we noticed. Currently, my treasure hunting often features a search for cashmere. I comb thrift shops looking for soft, cozy cashmere sweaters. I can recognize them almost by sight as I graze the racks crammed with options. When one catches my eye-I slow and reach out to touch it, and if confirmed-I smile. Sometimes the cashmere is a sweater from a box store-last week I found a cardigan that was hand embellished and retails for over $300. That one even sparkles a little. Last weekend on the way out of a thrift shop, I found a cashmere and wool Burberry trench. The act of treasure hunting causes me to slow. I will never find an item of beauty if I am running past the racks, phone in hand. Quite the opposite, when I am in a thrift shop, I move slowly-phone tucked carefully away. My eyes are focused and distractions are forgotten.
This week brought with it some work stress, and as I moved throughout my days carrying the burden of words spoken without regard to my feelings a few treasures popped in to my view. Twice I saw tiny flecks of glitter, one resting on a table in the classroom I teach in, and one laying next to my yoga mat at an evening class. Tiny, individual sparkles-yet they caught my eye and upon noticing them I could not help but smile. Wednesday morning I decided to work from home for a bit before teaching, while I was settling in to write some letters of recommendation I heard a familiar song. There is a beautiful cardinal that perches on the tree outside of the window in our half bathroom. It’s his spot. He lands there and sings loud enough that I can hear it from in my house-if I’m listening. When I hear it, I try really hard to stop what I am doing and wander closer, to find him in his spot and listen. I stop, I look, I notice.
Stop, look, notice. The treasures placed in our lives-possibly tiny flecks of glitter, or perhaps a cashmere sweater buried in a rack of clothes, or the perfect book on the used book shelf-these are gifts meant to capture our attention. In an essay titled, “Pennies” from her book Cold Tangerines, author Shauna Niequist says, “once you start seeing the faithfulness and hope, you see it everywhere” In this essay she discusses her collection of pennies, because they felt unused and unwanted she started to gather them-to put them in a safe and beautiful spot. Once she started this collection-she began to notice pennies everywhere. I wonder if this could be the same with these sparks or treasures in our lives. When we take the time to slow enough to really notice the treasures around us, we will begin to see that they are everywhere. Maybe thrifting is just a practice for me, a honing of skills for searching for treasures in my life, in my home, in my workday. I am guessing my husband will find shopping for cashmere as a spiritual discipline a bit of a stretch-but I can see the connection. What if by teaching my kids to search hard among all of the clutter for the beauty, the item that makes you smile-it teaches them to slow down and look for beauty in their busy, screen filled life? What if the little flecks of glitter that made me smile, or the cardinal singing from the tree were placed there specifically to pull me out of my frustration or unhappiness-to bring me joy. To ultimately remind me to pick my head up, keep my eyes open and my phone tucked away so I don’t miss the treasure right in front of me.