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Choosing what to focus on

July 30, 2013
By RANDY LEWIS ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Walking down the quiet Topridge Road as the sun began to set, I breathed deeply, smelling the smells of the damp forest. These woods were serving as a church or sanctuary for me, light filtering down on to the green ferns below. Two by two, birds began to sing an evening song, the forest choir singing at the appropriate time every day.

A single deer fly buzzed my head but did not bite me. There were no people anywhere except me, here. As a gift to myself, I wanted to walk deep into a world of no people, and here I was.

The air was brisk. When the sun filtered down to my face, it was warm. Deeper in the woods, two thrushes exchanged songs. A red squirrel chattered overhead. Here were the forest residents I was allowed to observe. Here were my teachers. They bring me inner peace when I relax and let them offer me their wisdoms and surprises. Others seek thrills, excitement, noise and action when looking for a break in their routine. Not me. This quiet sanctuary is always my magical reward. It's what I am focusing on when I step into the forest.


Getting out

Finding joyful surprises makes a place magical. Saranac Lake has many delightful surprises, more obvious each passing week of summer. More people are out walking and riding on our sidewalks, over our roads, and on our trails. Folks are stepping out, or getting into their canoes and kayaks, or heading to the beach.interacting with the gifts that summer in the mountains can bring to those open to them. What we see along the way when we're having our adventures gives us a positive sense of magic if we let it.


Counting people

One recent early morning I absorbed and observed the people out and about our town, from upper Broadway through town to the far shores of Lake Flower. I had a little notebook, and I counted what I saw. Comaradarie abounded everywhere. Swimming lessons were set to begin at the town beach at Lake Colby. On upper Broadway I saw seven or eight kids with towels walking in that direction. I noted four different sets of tourists seeking places for breakfast.

Customers parked outside of Sears and Nori's, and made their way to the banks. There were at least nine people out walking their dogs. Old people and young people, old dogs and young dogs, large dogs and small dogs, one which was laying down on the sidewalk against its owner's wishes, maybe just waiting for a belly rub. The air was warm, already over 70, with the promise of another hot day ahead. Two volunteers were bent over in the VIS garden as cars drove by.

There were four women, two pairs, out walking for exercise. One elderly man sat on a park bench in Riverside Park, watching two pontoon boats putter toward the dock. Someone was fishing near the pavilion. Two people sat outside the Blue Moon cafe drinking their coffees, one reading a paper, the other talking on a cell phone. I only saw one bike rider, near Mountain Mist, where there were three canoes paddling in the water behind the ice cream store. Twelve Canada geese swam lazily in the water near the boat launch. Two twenty somethings played tennis at the tennis courts. Guests lined up to eat at McKenzie's. An older woman was walking home from Aldi's with a medium sized grocery bag over her shoulder.

Adirondack activity for an ordinary summer morning in Saranac Lake. The town felt vibrant and alive and I was proud to call this my home town. Noticing the details about the other Adirondack people claiming this same space made it feel magical, as though we'd all been in the same movie. There is no way of knowing what any of these other people were observing, or what they chose to focus on during those morning moments. It was golden to me. Every day we choose to see events as gifts or nuisances. I find the cheerful route provides me with a lot better days.


On the other hand

For example, I just pointed out how cheerful and lively our town was on that recent morning, how proud I was. However, later that day, I was chatting with someone who pointed out how many empty storefronts have cropped up lately, what a sad first impression that would make on this year's tourists. I was so startled , I just stammered, "What?? Look around. This is only a temporary situation. This is a great summer for Saranac Lake." I felt that someone else had chosen to focus on what was not there, rather than what was. People don't have to think like that.

I think my view allowed me to have the better day. It's what we choose to focus on that makes a difference. Leave negative thinking behind. If we register the positives we experience, our days will hold these things, and so will our memories. It's a choice we get to make every day.


Randy Lewis lives in Paul Smiths, and is the author of "Actively Adirondack: Reflections of Mountain Life in the 21st Century," Adirondack Center for Writing's People's Choice Award for Best Book 2007.



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