Slowing Down to Notice

photo 1

The inlet MEH and I were driving by….

The other day I realized that I haven’t blogged recently about Maine—about the natural beauty of the area where I live. This was followed quickly by the realization that I barely notice where I am. Truth is, there are whole days and probably even weeks that go by when I rarely think about my natural surroundings at all.

The small town I live in is located in southern Maine, on a small harbor on Casco Bay. A beautiful river runs through town (at the current time its banks are steeped in autumn colors) and it’s a short hop to the coast, to the bridge where I used to take videos every Sunday during the first year of this blog.

In August, when I was writing at a local coffee shop every morning, I’d leave for home at around noon. One day, instead of heading straight home (a five minute drive), I headed east, toward the bridge where I used to shoot those videos. I crossed the bridge and got out of the car and just stood, smelling the salt air and marveling at the beauty I rarely thought of on most days.

For a while, I’d drive out there everyday. Finish writing and visit the bridge. Just stand there and notice. It felt great. Not so much what I was seeing, but the fact that I was seeing. I was slowing down enough to see, to notice.

Like most of us, I got busy again. I think one day I had to go to the store immediately after the coffee shop or I was meeting a friend—I’m not sure which. Then MEH (My Engineer Husband) lost his job and I got really distracted. (You can read about that here on Writer Unboxed.)

photo 2

A few minutes later…

Then the other day MEH and I were coming back from Portland—about twenty minutes from our small town—and MEH was driving while I looked out the car window, and I noticed we were crossing a small inlet. I asked MEH… was he like me? Were there times he didn’t even notice? Yes, he said, many. And we just marveled. At where we live, at the things we drive by almost everyday. At the natural beauty surrounding us.

The more I paid attention, the more I noticed…the small things, the nuances. The more I noticed the better I felt. More connected to my surroundings but also to the moment. More aware. More alive. Better. Just noticing, just knowing, that out there—outside myself—is a whole big world. Of beauty, of nature, of nuances, of life.

And it reminded me that I really need to pay attention and to slow down enough to just notice.

Do you, like me, sometimes go through life blindly without even noticing your surroundings? How do you get yourself to slow down enough to see, to appreciate? I’d love to hear your ideas!




  1. Julie Luek says:

    I think that’s what I love about nature. It’s the easiest, most natural form of meditation. It focuses the mind and eye and takes us from the ticker tape of thoughts. Lovely lovely. Thanks for sharing. We must have been on the same track of thought with our posts today. 🙂

    • Julia Munroe Martin says:

      Yes, we definitely were on the same track today, Julie… but you nailed it. I need to be more aware and remember to look, notice, and take myself away from the “ticker tape of thoughts” (love that).

  2. Micky Wolf says:

    A beautiful post for a Monday morning. 🙂 Yep, I too can definitely go through the day without noticing my surroundings. Something that has been helpful for me is regular morning quiet time. Whether the practice is considered prayer, meditation, reflection, pondering–or simply being–sitting in the chair next to a window in my study almost always allows me to focus (or refocus) on what is truly important and gives meaning to life. I agree, nature ministers to the heart, soul, and body in ways that often transcend our understanding.

    • Julia Munroe Martin says:

      Hi Micky, thanks for visiting my blog! I love the tip of having a regular morning quiet time of reflection, thank you. And I completely agree about nature’s effect transcending our understanding. Nice to see you again!

  3. Kate Lansing says:

    Great blog post! Such an important thing to remember, but tough to do. I remember reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance years ago, and a tip in that book to walk half as fast as you normally do for 20 minutes a day. I try to do that when I notice time slipping away from me… but it’s still a challenge. This post is a good reminder. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    • Julia Munroe Martin says:

      Thank you, Kate — yes it’s very hard for me to do. But what a great tip from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (one of MEH’s favorite books, I may add!) and I’ll definitely give it a try. Thank you so much for your comment and for your visit to my blog!

  4. I know just what you mean, Julia. I think life takes over sometimes and we stop sensing things. As a by-product of this, I think the creative flow is stemmed too. My saviour is my dog walks. Even in the morning when I only have time for a cursory short walk, I notice the birds or trees and which flowers are in bloom. I deliberately try not to hurry the walk as I find it so beneficial to the rest of my day. Luckily, I have fields a stone’s throw from me, so even if I can’t walk through them, I can walk past them and experience that sense of quiet. It’s head clearing space and sometimes magical things happen and it seems to awaken those senses again, doesn’t it? It’s easy to live and forget to feel alive, which are not the same thing are they? Lovely, thought-provoking post, Julia xo

    • Julia Munroe Martin says:

      Thank you for your comment, Abi! Your morning dog walks sound beautiful! I love the way you describe them and could easily imagine you alon gyour way! Yes, I completely agree with this: “It’s easy to live and forget to feel alive, which are not the same thing are they?” So glad you enjoyed the post, and I so appreicate your advice! xox

  5. Jo Carroll says:

    This is lovely – and if anyone has a secret to making sure we remember to stop and notice the trees, I’d love to know it. It’s too easy to rush through days.

    • Julia Munroe Martin says:

      Thank you for reading, Jo — so happy you enjoyed. And I’m so glad you understand. Yes, it’s too easy to rush, exactly. If only we could find that secret (of how to stop and notice) I think we’d be very well known people indeed, don’t you?

  6. I think we’re all guilty of just not noticing sometimes. But like you, I always feel better when I pull myself back into mindfulness. Somehow, being aware of my surroundings — regardless of what they are — always makes me feel grateful, and grateful is a really wonderful emotion to live in.

  7. Sorry about YEH’s job loss; I look forward to the blog post when you tell us he has a new one. He sounds like he has a tech skill set that is hard to replicate.

    And I relate to the slowing down to notice bit. When I have a fairly reliable schedule, I do notice my natural surroundings more, and I’ve done that since I was a kid. Sometimes it’s just looking at ducks at a nearby duck pond, or a river current. Usually not for long, but long enough to feel connected to my world. Great post as usual. 🙂

    • Julia Munroe Martin says:

      Thank you, Mahesh — I’ll pass your well wishes onto MEH and will definitely plan to write a blog with the good news when we have it to share! It’s so true, isn’t it, that when our days are predictable it’s easier to notice things… and it reminds us of how wonderful it is to feel connected. Glad you enjoyed the post, and nice to “see you.”

  8. Natalie Hart says:

    Yes, Julia, seeing is a discipline, which means we can let it slip, just like all those other disciplines. When I’m walking around or when I’m the one who isn’t driving, I make a point of looking around — and not being on my phone. I also have a thing with the moon: I always note the state of the moon and of the planets that appear in the early evening near it. So I almost always know whether the moon is waxing or waning. Thanks for this reminder to keep seeing.

    • Julia Munroe Martin says:

      What a great way of remembering — with the moon! I actually have a scene in my just-finished WIP with a character talking about the moon and how she sees it in different places, different times. So I need to take a page from my own book and from your advice and apply it to my daily life. Thank you for planting a good idea and for the visit to my blog, Natalie!

  9. This post really spoke to me. After all, the very theme you introduce — stopping and seeing — is what my entire blog, “What I Saw” is based upon. Seeing. Being present. Connecting with nature. After years of gauzy blindness, I finally opened my eyes when I started running outdoors – and I would even say that blogging helped me see more clearly, because I was actively looking for discoveries, texture, nuance, description – for my own consumption and personal gratification but also for my writing. I’m to the point in my daily routine where if I do not have any time outdoors in a day, I feel emotionally bereft. It’s amazing to me what even 10 minutes of observation outdoors can do for the psyche. It’s the greatest tool a writer can harness, I think.

    • Julia Munroe Martin says:

      I know we’ve talked about this before — and I remember when I guest posted with your blog about “phototherapy” — and I’m wondering why I don’t do what you do on a regular basis?! I keep needing to relearn this particular thing about me each time I get busy or distracted. Once again, I need to stop and see, pay attention, and lift the gauzy blindness (EXACTLY!). Hopefully next time I’ll remember sooner!

  10. Ann Mc says:

    I miss SO much focusing inward or on other distractions. I suspect it happens to all of us. I have noticed, however, when I have my camera with me I LOOK more! Hugs to you~

    • Julia Munroe Martin says:

      Thank you so much for reading and for your comment, my friend. That’s so interesting about noticing more when you have your camera, Ann — and you’re such a wonderful photographer so I’m not surprised! Sometimes I notice more with my camera and sometimes I notice less. I think it has to do with why I’m taking photos. If it’s just for fun, then it helps me to notice, but if it’s with an eye toward social networking then I’m even more distracted by it. Hugs to you, too!

  11. Shary says:

    I think that’s one of the reasons I love walking the dog and working in the garden. My thoughts often wander and I can get lost inside my head, even outdoors, but then I’ll hear a birdcall or a petal will flutter and I’m brought right back to the present. Plus there’s nothing quite like green leaves for resting the eyes after staring for hours at a computer screen. It’s the perfect remedy.

    • Julia Munroe Martin says:

      That’s what I need, Shary! To get lost inside my head — exactly… and I need to find whatever it is to take me there… Thanks for the idea; I’ll try gardening (raking leaves seems to be in order)!

  12. Definitely! I think that’s why I enjoy autumn so much. I really have to have my head very far up my posterior to not notice the glorious colors surrounding me. 🙂

    • Julia Munroe Martin says:

      I hear you, Karen, autumn’s blazing colors really do demand attention, don’t they!?