Over 200 years ago, Blake, in his Auguries of Innocence, wrote ‘To see a World in a Grain on Sand, And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand, and Eternity in an hour’. I think what he meant was that the secret of happiness does not reside in grand sweeping moments, but rather is to be found in those small, still moments of intimacy that modern life does its best to stop us from noticing.
I’ve moved down to the coast, and I’m fortunate enough to be in an area where there are both brutal landscapes (industrially attractive shingle beaches, rough-hewn piers) and wild spaces (cement sea, greenery and white cliffs). I grew up in the Cape which probably has some of the best beaches in the world, but somehow my rough little patch of SE England has beauty all of its own. It’s an under-rated place – like the shy girl in high school who looked a bit nerdy and then turned out to be a beautiful swan, or the woman whose sense of humour helps her to laugh at what it prevents her from having. It needs time – and courage – to be appreciated. It also needs patience – noticing that rare seaside plant or beautiful butterfly when walking on the Leas, seeing the possibility in newly harvested fields with rough, stubbly remnants of crops, and hearing the seagulls and guillemots and ring-necked doves greet the morning… along with the high speed train and the ambulance rushing to the local hospital!
Despite being a non-believer, I know that I believe in the god (or goddess) of small things. In life, as in business, its the small things that really matter. A warm smile, a lovely day, a beautiful autumn scene – that man on the tube who gave me his seat, my coffee shop guy in the station who greets me like a long lost friend, even though he does not know me, the local shopowner who was kind and comforted a distressed nine-year old by calling her mother, the optician who gave me a discount and a free eye test just because he could. Small, but important things.
Having moved from a massive city to what I would term the coastal boondocks, it’s been an adjustment, but its also been a pleasure. Don’t get me wrong – in my small pocket of London where I used to live, my neighbours were fantastic. I miss them. But I also know that the people in my pier-side town have restored my faith in the little things.