Recently, while killing a couple of hours in an outlet mall, I stumbled into a massive discount bookstore. I am a bit of a book snob, so an outlet mall certainly isn’t my first choice when looking for a new book to savor. But I had nowhere better to be, so I gave it a shot.
I wandered over to the tiny sliver of the store marked “Poetry. (My book snobbery is at its pinnacle in poetry sections.)
There tucked between the Chicken Soup for the Soul books and Poems for Every Occasion anthologies was a slim volume by Amy Gerstler. The opening poem of Dearest Creature was called, “For My Niece Sidney, Age Six,” and I was immediately struck by Gerstler’s description of Sidney:
…You sit alone,
twenty feet from everyone else, on a stone
bench under a commodious oak, reading aloud,
gripping your book like the steering wheel
of a race car you’re learning to drive.
Complaints about you are already filtering
in. You’re not big on eye contact or smiling.
You prefer to play by yourself…
“Oh, Sidney,” I thought. “You’re a girl after my own heart.”
For $3.50, I took the book home with me.
I’ve been carrying it in my purse ever since, opening it in waiting rooms, over lunch. And I’ve been carrying the image of Sidney around, too, seeing her in the people I meet, in myself.
[bctt tweet=”… we are all curating a sort of collection of artifacts, memories, experiences…” username=”womenoftheelca”]
Discovering this particular girl in this particular poem in this particular place has got me thinking about how much of our lives are made up of these kinds of discoveries, how we are all curating a sort of collection of artifacts, memories, experiences – even friends and loved ones – that shape us into the person we will become.
David Dark, author of Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious, would call these collections – whether they be physical like books or movies or intangibles like trips to exotic locales – our “attention collections.”
He writes, “Show me your receipts, your text messages, your gas mileage, your online history, a record of your daily doings and, just to get things started, a transcript of the words you’ve spoken aloud in the course of a single day, and then we might begin to get a picture of your religious commitments.”
He argues that the things we put in front of ourselves become a part of our religion, so it’s important to make careful choices with our time and attention.
The key, I think, is to curate an “attention collection” that is meaningful and enriches your life, rather than getting swept up in the many other distracting, empty things vying for our attention – like, perhaps, outlet malls.
In order to do that, maybe we need to be open to how and where those holy artifacts find us, and then be a bit more like Sidney, clutching that book when everyone else seems to think she should have better things to do.