My tank was on empty. Not metaphorically but that too. The light came on in the minivan and I pulled over to the gas station closest to my house. Insert card, open gas lid, chose fuel type, the whole drill. I got everything rolling, clicked the metal piece that keeps the gas a flowin’ without me having to keep my hand on the trigger the entire time, and sat back down in the van, scrolled through my instagram feed for a few minutes only to look up and see I’d only filled up a couple gallons so far. It was one of those slow pumps. I was going to be there a while. So I immediately went back to instagram before realizing, as though by divine intervention, there were other things I could look at.
The gas station sits next to a harbor. There were boats and darkening clouds. A man still wearing a silver helmet walking slowly but determinedly into the convenience store. Another man in a black t-shirt with writing all over it.
There were so many birds I couldn’t have counted them if I had wanted to. Some gulls wandering about but also a whole pod of pelicans in the distance, flying away in a V– did I know they did that? I think I did but, after seeing it, now I’m not sure.
Is this why art professors make such a big deal about drawing from life rather than just from photographs? I looked at my view and then at my screen. They hardly had anything in common at all. One was curated, posed, and I was making it move from one thing to the next with my thumb. The other was expansive, unedited. It was just as random but less forced. Grand but no one to aggrandize it– no photoshop for the grey clouds and the colorless water before me.
“Look up!” a trainer used to tell me when I was working on my running form. “There’s nothing for you down there. Eyes up,” he’d yell.
So I’ve been lifting my eyes up lately. Maybe part of the reason I find myself running on empty is because I’m glued to a screen that is as much like real life as a driving a car is to playing Mario Cart.
And you know what? I’m writing this on a screen and no doubt you’re reading it on one, too. But when I finish, I’m going to look up. I’m going to pay attention. I’m going to take three deep breaths and remember that there’s a great big world out there for me. Even in my tiny town, my drop of the ocean, my grain of sand.
If you find a few moments today to look up. I would love to know what you see.