Wearing Blinders

We often put blinders on horses to keep them from being distracted by anything not directly in front of them. We tell ourselves this is just for horses and neglect to see the blinders we wear in our daily lives.

 

Five years ago I gave up my car and found an entire world.  I realized that as I zipped along the roads in my car I was living with blinders on, missing the little things only slowing down will reveal. Within days of being car-free my memories of life before car ownership came back to me. Those memories were from more than thirty years prior but were as vivid as if they happened yesterday.

I loved walking around town, catching the bus to the dock to then catch the ferry to ride across the lake to the beaches. There was a small park a block from my house that I walked to regularly. I recalled the weeping willow I used to sit under with a book and pick at the wild strawberries around me.

There was the corner store that had an ice cream counter I would stop at after work when I got off the bus. I stopped visiting for ice cream when I bought my car as it wasn’t a convenient to find a parking spot as it was to walk across the street.

I now realized I missed those days yet it was no ones fault but my own. I’d traded leisurely walks for stressful traffic and didn’t realize my life was worse for it.

In the Nature Principle, Andrew Przybylski, is quoted as saying, ” Nature in a way strips away the artifices of society that alienate us from one another.”

But here I am, older and maybe a bit wiser. I no longer desire to own a vehicle. I see the  flower beds up close that I didn’t realize were there even though I traveled that road almost daily. I see the number of butterflies and small animals killed from the impact with automobiles, and my heart breaks every time. I feel the breezes, smell the exhaust (which I usually find myself holding my breath as not to be assailed with exhaust fumes today) as well as the cut grass. I meet people I wouldn’t have met if I hadn’t given up my car. My world opened up after making one simple change in my life.

Since that day of giving away my car and noticing the changes in myself I made other changes. I incorporated more silence in my home. I no longer need music or other background noise to be content and now listen to the birds or my own inner thoughts. I’ve grown as a result and even at my age am learning more about myself and how I fit in the natural world I came from.

When we simplify our lives we are left with the time to stop and see the world that exists outside that narrow focus our blinders allowed us to see. If you can’t or aren’t ready to simplify your life you can still take a few minutes to reconnect and look at the world without blinders.  As you come home from work, instead of rushing into the house stand there for a few minutes and just listen. Look up at the sky, notice the clouds, or close your eyes and see what you notice without the distraction of your vision.

I meet many people of all ages who are still wearing blinders. They don’t see where the groundhog holes are, they don’t feel the change in the barometer that signals a rain storm, they don’t realize there is a smell to the air when rain is imminent. Even those people who live without a car and walk everywhere miss these things, they instead have their eyes, or ears, glued to their phones to pass the time while walking.

Last week we were told to expect a severe thunderstorm. I wanted to enjoy some time outside before the rains arrived. I took a book out onto my deck and while engrossed in the book I soon felt the change in the air pressure, I felt the wind change direction and knew in my bones the time to go inside for safety had arrived.

I placed my bookmark in my book and headed for the door. Just as I reached for the handle of the storm door a strong wind tore a good-sized branch from the tree that had been above me while I read.  The branch landed right where I had been sitting. As I crossed the threshold to enter the house the sky opened up and the rain fell violently. As I closed the door I heard neighbors anxiously trying to round up their children to get them to safety, the storm had taken them by surprise because they were distracted by other things.

I want to introduce all children I meet to the wonders of nature.  I want them to know trees feel pain (read the Hidden Secrets of Trees to learn more), I want them to feel and smell the impending rain, to know the names of the bugs and critters in their area and love looking for them. I want them to know their neighbors as well.  In sharing the world with them I hope they won’t willingly wear blinders as they move through life.

Let’s take off the blinders and see the gifts life has to offer.

 

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18 thoughts on “Wearing Blinders

  1. You are so right about that. I loved being able to walk places when living in my apartment. Now everything is 3 to 8 miles away and not safe to walk. I walk everyday I can. That’s how I captured the photos of the rainbows on my post. Got a little wet but it was a gentle rain and felt quite nice. Even when I do have to drive, I try to notice as much as possible. I do miss a walk-able neighborhood. Listening to your innate instincts is something many have lost as well. My first husband got up off his cot just seconds before their tower fell leaving a chunk of concrete on his pillow. I’m glad you weren’t hurt and were aware. I too feel the pressure change. Lots of people make fun of me but it helped us when a tornado ripped through our neighborhood down in Mississippi. 🙂 Heading out to quilting. Have a good day. Just can’t carry the machine so I have to take the car. Only once this week and not again for another month. 🙂 Hugs.

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    1. Life always has trade offs. I too miss the walkable town but the insecurity that came with my apartment was too much. I recall you had to be really quiet in your apartment which can be stressful when you have company.

      I was reading yesterday that cloud formations can tell us when an earthquake will strike and a few days ago, read that people have the ability to use echolocation but that we neglect those senses. I have to look into this more but those comments intrigued me. There is probably a whole world of signs I still miss.

      Have a lovely day sewing with the ladies.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So beautifully written, Lois. I share your sentiments on the closeness of Nature and what it teaches us. Words can’t really describe the tender touch it offers and gentle connection to life. A soft breeze through the pines reminds me of that and, like you said, the atmospheric changes. It calls us to listen but never demands . . . only when we’re ready. Lovely — thank you for sharing. 🙂

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  3. Lovely post. I, too, enjoy the quiet more and more now. I am very comfortable with my own company and thoughts. I actually prefer not having a back ground noise – like some folks I know. I still need a car because of the area we live in is not good for walkers. But when we moved I made sure we were at least close to a grocery store – so when the time came for me to give up driving, I could walk to the store. And there is always grocery delivery … a common thing in our area. I don’t fear the day that I stop driving. Taking a taxi will cost less than owning a car over the course of a year.

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    1. Elaine, when I was young I recall talk of how wasteful it was for someone to take a taxi. Yes, the bus was cheaper but it didn’t run all the time. Then one day I had no choice but to take a taxi and was shocked at how reasonable it was. When you add up the cost of car ownership (purchase price, repairs and maintenance, insurance, gas etc) a taxi can be a much less expensive way to go.

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  4. So true. People often look surprised when I mention something they have passed for years without noticing! Even our house, which is certainly nothing like the others around it lol but tucked in among trees so people don’t look. I like to notice the details, too, and though we do drive quite frequently, we often stop when we arrive home to look around us, then to inspect the garden or the stars at night before we actually go through the gate and into the house… Also I don’t have any background noise any more – when I was younger I wouldn’t have believed it!

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    1. We are in the minority. In many areas in the US subdivisions are built in such a way that people drive into their garage then enter their home via a door in the garage. They never step outside. It’s crazy.

      I often say people who knew me when I was younger wouldn’t recognize me today. No background noise, living car-free… yes people would be shocked.

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  5. I adore this post! You know, I often feel like my life has been one steady march away from societal norms. I sill can’t quite pinpoint the moment it all changed, but this was most definitely not the life I thought I’d have when I was young – or at least not the life I thought I was supposed to have. Class valedictorian, Phi Beta Kappa, Suma Cum Laude – maybe I just burnt out so early that taking the blinders off was really my only hope – either that or die.

    It’s funny though, because sometimes I genuinely forget that the rest of the world hasn’t come along on this journey with me. Last week sometime I was making myself a quick snack. I hadn’t had time to cook so I opened a can of pinto beans, added some spices, topped it with cheese and stuck it in the microwave. As I was eating it I had a memory of a side dish called “pintos and cheese” that they used to sell at Taco Bell. When I was a kid we had fast food 3-4 nights a week, and I literally had all of the menus memorized!

    Anyhow, I was eating my beans and remembering Taco Bell and I was thinking: “Gee, I wonder if anyone else remembers Taco Bell and Pintos & Cheese – that would be a fun FaceBook post.” Then suddenly it occurred to me – I bet Taco Bell still exists. And who knows, maybe Pintos & Cheese are still on the menu! It was just this bizarre moment for me realizing that fast food still exists and there are probably still people out there who eat it 3-4 times per week! For a moment there I had honestly forgotten that the whole crazy, dysfunctional, “normal” world is still out there, and most people are still stuck in it!

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    1. It’s hard for me not to notice fast food still exists, it’s every where I look. I never went to Taco Bell so can’t tell you if it was or is on the menu, but I’d say it probably isn’t because your simple dish would be rejected by most of the people I know who would eat there.

      I can’t say I grew up on fast food because my mother didn’t buy it often but what we had was close. Our menus consisted of Chef Boyardee canned pastas, boxes of mac and cheese, and frozen TV dinners. I’m trying to remember the last time she cooked, other than Christmas, and can’t. It was open a can and dump it on the plate to get the chore of feeding us over.

      I do know the exact moment I changed and my blinders came off. It was the moment I held my first child in my arms. I couldn’t imagine working the hours I had been and leaving him to sitters to be raised. I gave a lot of thought to what I was going to do and came across the idea that I didn’t have to have a high powered career and tons of money to raise him. That he deserved my love and attention more than money. From there it was simply finding a way to support him, and later his brother, from home.

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  6. OK – sorry for another long comment, but I just have to share one more story. One day a few summers back, CatMan and I decided to go for a bike ride. I had heard on the news that it was “bike to work day” so I was a little concerned that the bike path would be crowded on our way home – but we decided to go anyway. We went west toward the mountains, and about 15 miles into the ride we stopped at a rest area at the top of one of our flood control dams just this side of the first foothills. We were sitting there enjoying some water and chatting with some other riders when all of a sudden we felt the wind change direction. We looked up and saw a HUGE black cloud coming over the hogback to the west. We looked at each other and without even saying anything we both knew we had better hit the road quick!

    Anyhow, CatMan grew up hiking and exploring the mountains around Colorado Springs and has an amazing sense of weather. While all the other riders were busy checking their phones for the latest weather radar, or calling someone to pick them up, he and I were looking at the sky. Everyone else went west toward town, but we decided to go south instead, and take a big loop around the city. We figured the storm was moving west so we’d skirt around the outside of it and hopefully stay dry.

    The plan worked like a charm and we didn’t get any rain until we had come all the way around from the south and were heading back up north toward the city. At that point we found the rain and got stuck under a bridge for about half an hour. We got a little wet, but it was really no big deal.

    But when the rain stopped and we started heading home I noticed that we hadn’t seen a single rider coming south out of the city. I thought it was very strange, it being “bike to work day” and all. But as we got closer to the city it all started to make sense. There were stalled cars everywhere, and you could see that the rivers and creeks had overflowed most of the bridges. When I got home I turned on the news and discovered that the storm had hit the city hard – roofs were damaged, underpasses flooded out, and the downtown bike path was under 3 feet of water! But because we had watched the skies, we came through it all with nothing more than a slight delay!

    Anyhow, it sorta reminded me of your story. Paying attention to what’s actually going on around you is always the best bet! And here’s a post I wrote about that ride with pictures if you’re curious: http://ecocatlady.blogspot.com/2015/06/bike-to-work-swim-home-day.html

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    1. I meant that the storm was moving EAST – from the West. Not that it matters, but some day I will stop mixing up east and west!

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      1. I figured as that’s the normal jet stream. I have another one for you. I was traveling east from Arizona, but my son wanted to see Mile High Stadium so we went north before heading east. I had a bad feeling about a storm but being in the car I do miss some of the signs. It was nagging at me that something bad was coming so I stopped for gas. The air felt very wrong and reminded me of a tornado. I went inside to pay for my gas and heard people talking about a storm arriving with tornadoes. I informed my son we had to leave right now. As we were getting in the car he spotted a tornado behind us and began to panic. I informed him to get in the car right now. As we drove away, I was watching my rear mirror and he was turned around watching the tornado which now was three, two behind us and one to the south. He began to panic, it wasn’t our first tornado when traveling. Not knowing where to shelter in the area the only thing I knew to do was to outrun it. I figured I could safely drive 75 mph, and the storm wouldn’t travel much over 30. Anyway, to make a long story a bit shorter, we outran the system and he finally calmed down. Luckily, as a result of growing up close to nature my boys are pretty observant now and don’t need a weather app to tell them what to expect or how to react when caught by surprise.

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        1. Oh my goodness! That sounds a tad bit scary. Good thing you knew how to outrun it. CatMan got caught in a tornado out on the bike path once. He and some other folks climbed up under and underpass and luckily the thing veered off before hitting them. At the time I was working at the music school, and when we heard the sirens we quickly gathered all of the kids and headed down into the basement. The building had more of a cellar than a basement – it was just one room, and it had been converted to a classroom. We knocked on the door and explained the situation to the instructor who was teaching down there at the time, apologizing for interrupting his class. His response still makes me laugh. “Well come on in if you like, but I have to warn you, this is a beginning accordion class – so you might be safer with the tornado!”

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          1. I’ve had several encounters with tornadoes and take it as just another phenomenon same as people living in California look at earthquakes. This area has a lot of tornadoes every year, most small enough not to do major damage but there’s always that odd one that destroys entire towns so we take them seriously.

            I love the teacher, I would have chose the beginner accordion class over my chances with a tornado.

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    2. Loved your story! It seriously shocks me how unfamiliar people are with their surroundings when outside the security of their homes. Today was another one of those days. I had my grandchildren for the weekend – (typing this after a good long nap 🙂 . The kids and I were outside when I felt a change in the air. I told the little ones they had about ten minutes to play because it was going to rain. The oldest looked up and told me it wasn’t going to rain because the sky wasn’t dark, at least at six she knows dark skies mean rain. Ten minutes later we came inside and she wanted to know if it was raining. I told her to go open the front door and listen to the metal roof to see if she could hear it while I washed sand off Little Guy. Sure enough it was pouring. At the time, I didn’t think about the neighbors who were out, but when the rain stopped and we went back out one remarked that she is tired of getting soaked by rain and wished her app would tell her when it would rain. My granddaughter told her we didn’t get wet because I told her it was going to rain. My neighbor, still peeved, informed me that since I don’t get caught in the rain I should call her and tell her when it’s going to rain. I’m not going to become the local forecaster any time soon but suggested she simply listen to her senses. That didn’t go over so well.

      Since I moved here, I’ve tried to teach the neighbor boys to recognize signs that the weather is going to change, they’re observant for a few weeks then go back to life as normal.

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