A delight turned self-conscious awkwardness
Last week I encountered an old man playing harmonica on the narrow street near the wooded park tucked away just off Beacon Street in Camberville. He cut an unlikely figure for doing so, that man, as I do not generally associate itinerant harmonica playing with khakis and a baseball hat perched in a way that only men of a certain age know how to do.
Such a disconnect struck me as both amazing and delightful. Too delightful, alas, for he caught me smiling at him and, blushing a bit, lowered his harmonica and his face. I wanted to reassure him somehow, but I thought that might make it worse for him, so I just met his eyes as he peeked up and nodded. He didn’t start playing again while I remained in earshot.
Feeling self-conscious and doing it anyway
That man came to mind several times last week as I caught myself stopping and craning my head all the way back to behold the autumnal splendor (I usually try to be at least a little bit sneaky about this when I snap my photos). Sometimes people caught me doing this, and I felt as that man did, self-conscious, the heat rising in my face. I would have lowered my gaze as well, but thinking of that man, I just took a deep breath and looked up again.
Why should I worry about what some stranger thinks of me? Who even notices middle-aged women walking their dogs anyway?
Nothing happened, or maybe something did
And, you know what? Nothing happened. No one gawked at me. No teenagers stood around, pointing at me (I don’t encounter too many bands of roving teenagers anyway). Actually, something did happen. A few people smiled and looked at me the way I looked at the old man. I even caught one of them stopping to look up, too.
We give up so much joy with our self-consciousness
We give up so much joy. We give it up for fear of being called out for reveling in it. We do this to avoid other people noticing us, to not feel self-conscious, and eventually this means that we lose our consciousness altogether. For the comfort of strangers who have given up theirs, we give up our sense of wonder.
We give up the joy of catching the November sun catching a leaf just so. The sounds of children babbling stories about squirrels to their parents, or the wind rustling golden leaves loose.
We can have wonder
This world offers us music and laughter and gorgeous autumn afternoons, so much wonder. If we can find it within ourselves to be conscious of it—it’s ours.
Last night while making dinner, I looked out the window to behold a man tromping down the street, tunelessly belting out a song I did not know. He made me nervous, because people just don’t do that (there was one guy who used to walk by signing, but his voice was so beautiful that he became a minor celebrity—this guy was not that), so like the middle-aged lady that I am, I surveyed the scene below. He caught me surveying him, and did not stop or lower his gaze, but just kept singing. He sounded terrible and joyful and beautiful, and he didn’t have a care in the world.
I would like to be like him.
Aspiring to be unselfconscious in the autumnal splendor
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