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On the drive to dinner last week, the palette of the desert offered a welcome. Pink and purple hues highlighted the sky with the moon in the backdrop, waiting backstage for its debut. It appeared like a scene in a Pixar movie, the line between caricature and reality blurring in a bountiful way. My daughter often knows I love taking pictures of the sky – it is my inevitable way to pay attention to the world, appreciate the grandeur and remedy the uncertainty of living.

“Look, Momma. Don’t you want to take a picture?” My daughter’s plea sounded similar to my own voice, beckoning me to slow down and appreciate what was in front of me.

Sometimes I will hand her my iPhone and let her experiment with getting the right shot from her car window. In this particular instance, though, I felt compelled to stop the car, pull over and capture this snapshot the way it deserved. My mom, who is visiting, also acknowledged the glory of the sky and the unbelievable beauty we were witnessing together.

I veered my car over to a side street and exited with my iPhone in hand. Experimenting with various angles, I took a montage of various pictures, kneeling down, angling my body to replicate what my eyes were witnessing. A few steps ahead my daughter did the same with her grandmother’s phone, clicking the camera button several times, parroting my amateur photography skills. We compared our pictures, talked about the magnificent colors, the shades of whimsy impossible to deny.

I love what paying attention to the magic of the ordinary ushers into my life. A simple drive to dinner bordered on the magical, connecting three generations of my family together in an unexpected way. I am not certain ten or fifteen years ago my lens of the world would lead me to honor the ordinary in quite this way. In my twenties, I hurried passed the grandeur. My gaze focused on rushing to the next something, threading together a flurry of moments, collecting them without realizing the depth of what I experienced.

Over the course of the last decade, the shift to paying attention evolved from enduring loss and welcoming joy. I am convinced that what pulls these diametrically opposite emotions together is the grandeur of witnessing the everyday world. The simplicity of the sun rising, the mountains mumbling in the horizon, the brilliant bougainvillea serenading the desert – I stand in awe of all of it because it helps me make sense of the world. Something bigger than me moves forward in a way I don’t understand and its seemingly eternal quality pushes me to pay attention and bow my head in gratitude. It is the act of seeking refuge in an external hope. When I am overcome by personal sadness, I envision the mountains cradling my head, the clouds whispering comfort and the colors of the sky, begging me to honor the joy.

As we circled toward our destination, we headed toward the restaurant, took one more look at the sky and complimented its beauty. I sensed the sharp edge of time, knowing this moment with my daughter and mother, may not happen quite the same way again. This brought a revelation – it wasn’t simply enough to honor the grandeur, but to understand its complicated layers, letting it seep in, pausing to understand the epiphany of the ordinary.

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