Together We Notice


This time last year, I was finishing a course on how to be a book coach and starting my first book coaching job. The course was taught by writer and book coach Jennie Nash, who sends a monthly newsletter to her students. In this month’s newsletter, she quoted writer Annie Dillard. I found the quote—and Jennie’s response—inspiring:

“We are here to witness the creation and to abet it,” wrote Annie Dillard. “We are here to notice each thing so each thing gets noticed. Together we notice not only each mountain shadow and each stone on the beach but, especially, we notice the beautiful faces and complex natures of each other. We are here to bring to consciousness the beauty and power that are around us and to praise the people who are here with us. We witness our generation and our times. We watch the weather. Otherwise, creation would be playing to an empty house.”

Then Jennie wrote this: “Witnessing has always felt like sacred work to me.”

Do the sacred work. Notice. Watch. Witness creation. May each season play to a full house.


Nurture peace, cultivate kindness, and carry the calm.


Nature of the week:

Shadow of the Week – the shadow of a shopping cart falling on a paper bag:

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Text and photos © 2021 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.

What Have You Missed Until Today?

“The eye is the best of artists.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature” –

In their book Living the Questions, David Felton and Jeff Procter-Murphy say that poet William Carlos Williams “used to carry a notepad around with him in which he listed ‘Things I noticed today that I’ve missed until today.'” With your eye as the artist, notice something beautiful today that you’ve missed until now.

Nurture peace, cultivate loving kindness, and carry the calm.

Nature of the week – paperbark:

Shadow of the Week:

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For my posts on life, faith, and the mystery we call God, link here.

Text and photos © 2017 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.

When is an Ordinary Sunday Extraordinary?

“Sometimes I have loved the peacefulness of an ordinary Sunday.

It is like standing in a newly planted garden after a warm rain.

You can feel the silent and invisible life.”

Marilynne Robinson


The ordinary becomes extraordinary when we open all our senses to it. Be aware. How would you describe it? As a garden? Warm rain? Find your own description. Notice. Feel the silent and invisible life. It’s one way to nourish peace, cultivate loving kindness, and carry the calm.

This week’s nature and shadow come in one photograph – a fern unfurling.


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For my posts on coming of age in a community of faith, link here.


Text and photos © 2017 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.

6 More Ways to Notice Like a Child

“To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson –

I spent last week at a writers’ conference in Princeton and realized again just how much a change of location draws our attention to our surroundings. Of course even in unfamiliar places, we can stay stuck in our own thoughts (or focus on our smart phones). But to a child, a new place is an adventure. And that’s what I had last week – new paths, different gardens, benches on the green where I could sit and simply notice the world around me. Adventure.

In my last post, I suggested six ways to notice the world like a child: Sit in a swing, angle yourself, squint, focus on moving water, squat, and get bored. Here are six more ways we can enter into that space of childlike wonder.


  1. Use as many senses as you can. When adults notice, it’s usually with the visual sense. Listening is a close second. Children notice with as many senses as adults will allow them to use. Touch is right up there with looking and listening. So is smell and taste.

2. Look up. I love trees, especially treetops. I love how the top branches reach toward the sky and dance in the wind. But when I get busy, I plow through my day at eye level. So notice the tops of tree. Gaze at the stars. Watch a jet make a vapor trail. Look up and discover.

3. Imagine. Children specialize in imagination, which is an extended way to notice the world. Imagining takes noticing to the next level. Remember when you were a child and looked up at clouds? Maybe you not only noticed them but also imagined that the cloud shapes were elephants or ships or whatever delighted you. My daughter-in-law and I often walk at our local botanical gardens. One of our favorite trails passes among trees where roots vein out across a ground carpeted with moss. We almost expect to see fairies come dancing through.

4. Experiment. Make something happen. Toss a pebble into a pool, listen to the splash, and watch the ripples. Blow a dandelion. Blow bubbles with a straw in a glass of milk. Stir the milk and watch the vortex.

5. Follow through. Sometimes we notice but turn away too soon to absorb the wonder of the moment. Blow bubbles, watch colors wink on their surface, and then follow through by continuing to watch as the bubbles float away. (Seriously, how long has it been since you’ve blown bubbles?)

6. Linger. This is like following through, but I think of it in the context of an unexpected moment that strikes us with a sense of wonder in passing. I grew up in West Texas, where the sunsets can be spectacular. I now live in Nashville, Tennessee, where trees block the view. But a few months ago, an amazing sunset turned billowing clouds overhead every shade of brilliant pink and orange. Along some of the busiest streets, people stepped out of shops and pedestrians paused on the sidewalks, and for a few moments, it seemed like the whole city looked up and lingered in awe.

So use as many senses as you can, look up, imagine, experiment, follow through, and linger. And use those moments to nourish peace and cultivate loving kindness. Then carry the calm.

Nature of the week – flowers in Princeton:


Shadow of the Week – lamp shadow in Princeton:



Text and photos © 2016 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.

What’s Waiting to Be Seen

6 Ways to Notice Like a Child

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour.”

William Blake, Auguries of Innocence


Do you have some time off this summer – maybe a week or two of vacation? Can you carve out a bit of down time for yourself? It’s a good habit to get into, allowing ourselves down time. Time to simply be. Even five minutes does wonders if we can let ourselves relax into it, especially if we spend the time in free-form noticing, being in the moment, being aware – like a child.

When I was a child, I spent a lot of time simply being. Free time was free, and there was lots of it. The only screen we had was the television, there were only three channels, and it was turned on only at select times. So I read, or I found something artsy-craftsy to do, or I simply sat and noticed and pondered. Even now, when I think of tapping in to a sense of wonder and deep calm, I go back to that state of being that taught me how to notice.

Children are experts at seeing and sensing wonder in common objects that adults often rush past. Here are six ways to train yourself to notice like a child and set your sense of wonder free again.

  1. Sit in a swing and rock slowly back and forth. Notice your surroundings as you let the motion lull you. As a child, swinging lazily in my backyard, I would scan the grass, watch the busy ants beneath me, and imagine what the world might look like from an ant’s perspective. Try it.
  1. Angle yourself. Children twist and turn and lean and look from all kinds of angles that upright adults rarely use to view the world. I used to turn upside down in a chair or couch and study the new perspective of the room, pretending that I lived in an upside down house. I imagined that I walked on the ceiling and had to step over the top of the door (now the bottom). (Confession: I still do this sometimes.)
  1. Squint. Some artists squint in order to see large areas of shadow and light and color in the subject they’re preparing to paint. Spend a few minutes squinting or looking out of the corner of your eye to get a different perspective on the world. It’s especially fun to squint at lights and make them split into a starburst (you did this as a kid, right?). My grandmother had wallpaper in a pattern so busy that when I squinted at it, it would wiggle and swim.
  1. Focus on moving water. Watch rain form a puddle or make ripples in a pond or pool. Watch water fill a bathtub. When my parents watered the lawn, there was always a trickle of water running down the driveway to the street. I used to follow the leading edge of the water and watch it roll slowly forward to merge at last into the stream in the gutter. I thought of it as a bird’s-eye view of Moses leading the Israelites to the Red Sea. Go figure.
  1. Squat. Okay, it’s harder for some of us to squat these days, so maybe just sit somewhere low where you can watch an insect. Some will be too fast for you, but others – ants, beetles, praying mantis, bees in a garden – are pretty easy to spy on. From this angle, you can also sift through pebbles. Enjoy.
  1. Get bored. I can picture this point scheduled into a daytimer: Get bored. Of course, maybe you don’t have time to stop and simply let yourself get bored. But remember this one the next time you’re a captive audience. Instead of growing anxious over your to-do list, sit there and . . . yep, get bored. See what you can see, smell what you can smell, listen to background sounds, feel the textures around you. When I was growing up and my mind wandered in church, I studied the patterns in the wood paneling on the walls and pulpit. Some patterns looked like objects or city buildings or animals. I especially enjoyed finding faces in the patterns.

Were you fortunate enough to have free time as a child? Were you allowed to get bored? Did you experience simply being? What did you notice during that time? Next week, I’ll post six more ways to notice like a child. Meanwhile, nourish peace, cultivate loving kindness, and carry the calm.

Nature of the week – from my Wednesday Walk at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens:


Shadow of the Week – from my deck:



Text and photos © 2016 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.

What’s Waiting to Be Seen