Noticing the Elephants

“I have the feeling that I’ve seen everything, but failed to notice the elephants.” — Anton Chekhov

I live within the downtown core of Vancouver, BC.  Like many other thriving metro centers, my senses are overwhelmed daily by the sights, sounds and smells that are a vital part to its energy. 

City life is an adventure. I have enjoyed the crush of people that blend together into a city-defining blend of culture. I have long since gotten used to the unique odors that are produced from concentrated living spaces.  I have adjusted to the constant white noise that is just the background soundtrack for my city lifestyle.

Along with the senses, there is a sense of urgency in daily life. From grocery shopping to returning last night’s video rental, one can literally feel the push of the city, urging one to go faster and achieve more. From vaccuming to gardening to commuting on the express bus to work, there is this unspoken message to go faster, achieve more and get more done. 

The assault on the senses and this hidden, unexplained urgency can often lead one to feel overwhelmed or even drained.  I was starting to feel trapped within myself, my immediate home environment and even the confines of the concrete skyscapers.  I chalked it up to lack of vacation — or even lack of inspiration for creating. 

Well, until I found myself during a coast trip.

“People only see what they are prepared to see.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

My husband and I decided that since we can both work from home most of the time, why not try living outside the city center. We wanted to experiment with a slightly slower way of life. 

Our explorations took us to an area known as the Sunshine Coast, where the population for the entire area is barely over 25,000.  It’s a close knit community accessible via seaplane or ferry – only.  But it isn’t the lack of humanity or the off the grid living that appealed to us.

One weekend, after a long day of public transporation and apartment hunting, my husband and I popped into a pub for some nachos before heading to the ferry terminal. 

While he visited the washroom, I sat on the pub’s patio and watched the sailboats drift in and out of the tiny harbor.  There were people sitting on coolers or lounge chairs along the dock, fishing and chatting with neighbors. The waves rolled gently into the shore. 

It was Saturday afternoon, prime time in the city for those seeking adventure or pre-function drinks.  And, yet, I was sitting in a quiet pub, enjoying the the world outside my bubble with very little of it crashing into mine.

Gone was the sense of urgency and in its place was this feeling of contentment. I had no where to go and I didn’t feel the urge to go faster or rush through our cheesy snack. I felt like I was taking in rather than using energy to put up blockers.

“One looks, looks long, and the world comes in.” — Joseph Campbell

For me, the fast-paced city life and the coping mechanisms we develop to handle the sensory assault has created a wall between what is inspiring in the world and my ability to see it.

Lost within the trappings of urban dwelling, I have failed to notice several things around me.  Or at least take note of the little things in life, the sound of laughter from the table beside us, the gorgeous orange flower sprouting up between the concrete bricks or even the smell of baking bread early in the morning from one of the neighboring shops.

I think the move to the coast will not only allow me to be inspired by the world around me through a slower, quieter life — but will give me opportunity to appreciate the crush and hustle of my former city life.

In short, I am noticing the elephants.

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