Writer’s block: Looking at the world curbside

Fourteen years ago I had an unfortunate encounter with a vehicle while I pedaled down the boulevard on my bicycle. The traumatic injuries suffered as a result of the collision gave me a rare opportunity to witness life from the curb.

Sue Austreng
Sue Austreng

You see, due to a broken back and the accompanying spinal cord injuries, I was wheelchair bound for six months.

It seems I spent a lot of time watching the world go by. Unable to begin my day with an early-morning run or enjoy a hike through the state parks’ glades and forests or pedal my two-wheeler on a tour about town, life was at a stand still.

Oh sure, I wheeled around the house in my wheelchair and took regular rolls down the road, but life was relatively still.

And that stillness opened my eyes, my heart and my gratitude to the beauty around – beauty that was too often overlooked when busyness and able-bodied hyperactivity pushed it out of sight.

Eventually I was able to abandon my permanently-seated position and return to able-bodied activity as I had formerly known it.

But now, just a few weeks ago, the gift of that mandatory stillness and the unexpected blessings of calm came to mind once again.

A new realization of all the beauty that surrounds was re-ignited within.

It started, I guess, as I was sitting outside Avant Garden coffee shop, rehydrating with a latte after a long run along the Rum River.

Early morning Main Street set the stage for scenes of simple beauty, every day activity that ebbs and flows with the rising of the sun.

I watched as store owners set up shop for Anoka’s annual summertime sidewalk sale. Burly men hoisted long tables from pickup trucks, unfolding them and positioning them on the cobblestone walk. Teens hustled in and out of stores, carrying boxes of merchandise and then organizing items on the just set tables.

The beauty of cooperative effort with the anticipation of bustling shoppers glowed in the rising sun.

Across the street, a pair of gray-haired ladies followed their leashed but still curious and wildly energetic canine companions, walking the dogs down Main Street and doing a little window shopping along the way.

The beauty of the unconditional love and loyalty of “man’s best friend” and the joy and exercise pets can bring to even an elderly life grew within my heart.

All the while, cars and trucks and buses and vans rolled down the road, pausing at traffic signals and crosswalks as the work-a-day world made its rush hour commute to the big city.

The beauty of days filled with productive activity and the paycheck that results came to mind with refreshed appreciation.

Another curbside view of the world comes from the curb outside my front porch.

There I’ve watched golfers tee off and imagined I’m part of a PGA tournament gallery witnessing the likes of Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson claiming victory at the majors.

The beauty of the opportunity to see elite athletes in action and the freedom of those athletes to pursue their dream and cheering them on to victory won my appreciation.

Another time, twilight approaching and a brisk refreshing wind in the air, I saw a young couple walking down the quiet road. As the setting sun reached the golden horizon, he reached for her hand, pulling her close and wrapping his arms around.

That curbside scene tugged at my heartstrings, and the beauty of young love stole my heart.

Now this description of the occasional witness of beauty and play, of progress and romance isn’t meant to suggest that I in any way wish to return to a permanently seated position and those months of wheelchair confinement.

No, it’s simply a longing to share with you, dear readers, the treasure to be found in the still, small moments of life.

Fashion your own still moments. With diligence and intention, practice claiming moments of quiet, of devotion to the observation and contemplation of the ordinary.

Your practiced awareness and expression of thanks will multiply your gratitude for the everyday, the ordinary, the routine.

And life as you know it will burst into sparkling color as the joy of all that’s worthy of thanks fills your heart and mind.