Today, I’m helping my family out by spending twenty-four hours with my youngest sister so she’s got someone around while my parents go on a trip. Thankfully, I didn’t feel too ill to drive down to Chicago, though I’ll admit I kinda fell into a bit of a zone as I drove. I’ve made the drive so many times at this point that I’m almost on autopilot when I do it now. Same turns, same exits, same traffic. The only thing that changes is where the construction is along the route. Or how much construction there is. This time, it felt like it was all construction.
Otherwise, the drive was nice and relaxing. I enjoy the sensation of being in motion and having the time to just relax and think while staying engaged in an activity. That being said, things started to feel a little weird when I started to get near where I grew up. I’m used to the feeling of things being or seeming different when I go to my old haunts, but this was a different. Instead of the buildings looking smaller or everything looking shabbier than I remembered (which is what usually happens when you go back to someplace after you’ve grown up of changed), everything looked shorter. It has been a while since I’ve been back here in the summer, but It feels like I remember there being more trees and less sky. It’s pretty clear that some of the trees are taller, but it just feels like I really saw the sky more than I’m used to around here. It’s a weird thing to focus on, but I’ve gotten used to always looking for sky since I live right on the edge of a forest, on a street surrounded by trees, and in a neighborhood that I can only get to by going through a small forest.
I know people’s perspective tends to change as they grow and as they reflect on their life, but I’m really not sure what this sudden focus on the sky means. Or if it even means anything at all. It could just be one of those things you notice that leaves you wondering if it’s been that way all along or if something changed that caught your attention. I know some things around here are looking a little more broken down than I remember from Christmas and a few of the houses around here have had some major work done on then, but none of those things would draw my attention to the sky. The weather isn’t particularly gorgeous nor particularly bad, so none of my usual reasons for extensively looking at the sky apply, but something definitely changed or disappeared.
Or maybe my focus just has. I’ve lately been making more mental effort to look up when my mind is wandering. Looking down is great and all, but I feel like the simple act of looking up instead of down has a positive impact on my mood. A minor one, to be sure, but still noticeably positive. To me, it’s the focus on looking at things a different way or paying attention to things a lot of people don’t think about. I mean, there’s a whole trope in stories that you can hide from anyone by hanging from the ceiling. It’s funny because the only thing the guard or whatever would need to do is look up, but they don’t. They look down the hallway or around the corners. The same is true of most people.
We have this little game we play at work. Someone once brought a pink stuffed flamingo into work and hid it someone’s office. Now, whoever finds it in their office has to go hide it in someone else’s office. This has been going on for several months now, but I hold the record for the longest hide because I always put it someplace you’d only see if you looked up. It helps that I’m taller than most of the people on my team, but I never put it out of reach for anyone. I’ve even told people my whole strategy revolves around the fact that people never look up and the pink flamingo is currently on its fifth week of being “hidden” on the underside of my coworker’s umbrella. I’ve pointed it out to two people and yet, despite the fact that it is easily visible to anyone who takes the time to tilt their head upward, no one else has spotted it yet.
I don’t think I’m special for doing something other people don’t do, I just like paying attention to everything, to all the details of my life and the world around me. Since I’ve started focusing my attention upward when I can spare it, I feel like I’ve noticed a lot more of the world around me than I used to when I’d let my attention drift downward. Plus, I’ve always had an affinity for the sky or stars and looking up is a constant reminder that they’re out there, even if I can’t see them.
So maybe it isn’t so weird that I feel like the sky is super big now. A bunch of trees got planted around here when I was in high school and now they’re all at the stage of growth where they’re filling out and getting noticeably taller every year. The skyline I grew up seeing has changed a lot since the last time I was here and spared the attention to look at it instead of trying to avoid sliding in the snow or had to watch out for other people visiting family during the holidays. Maybe there’s a tree missing somewhere or maybe the telephone poles got replaced lately. Heck, maybe it’s a combination of being a bit tired from a long drive and still feeling a little fuzzy from being sick yesterday. I’ll reflect on it and take some time to check out the skyline a bit more thoroughly this weekend, but there may not be an answer.
Sometimes you just notice something for the first time in a long time and it kinda sticks with you. Sometimes things are just different and you can never really nail down why or how. Whatever it is, at least it’s got me thinking about the sky rather than focused on how it always feels different to be visiting my parents’ house now, as an adult.