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Learning how to see the world

Learning how to see the world

I picked up the habit of watching from my dad.

I remember being somewhere around the age of ten or eleven. My dad had just picked me up from school and we were driving home in his work truck. At one point he leaned towards the wheel, looking up at the sky, and said, “Hey Meg, what do you see up there?”

“Up where?” I asked as I searched the horizon for something out of the ordinary. Maybe a plane flying close to the ground, or a big bird.

“In the clouds up there,” he said glancing at me, lifting his eyebrows, a grin spreading across his face. When he smiled his teeth peeked out from beneath his mustache.

I looked up again, searching the clouds for some sort of identifiable shape. Maybe a circle or a square. Something easy to point out.

“I don’t know,” I sighed,  “Over there I see something that kind of looks like a watermelon?”

My dad’s grin widened. “That’s pretty good Meg!”

I re-settled in my seat, content that I’d found something, ready to be done. I’d never been good at this kind of thing. In kindergarten, my class had to do a similar activity, but instead of looking for shapes in the clouds, we were looking for shapes in abstract watercolor paintings. When it was my turn to sit with Mrs. Nohavic, I copied what I’d heard the boy before me say. “I see a worm right there.”

Mrs. Nohavic proceeded to show me that my painting had a man and a woman in it. She outlined their bodies in permanent marker so I wouldn’t lose track of them.

I’d had a strong dislike for creative seeing ever since.

“Want to know what I see?” My dad asked, the blue of the sky reflecting from the blue of his eyes as he leaned even closer to the steering wheel. “Over there,” he said pointing, “I see a clown with a sad face, and over there,” he pointed to another section of cloud, “a pickle with a bite taken out of it.

I watched the clouds churning above us, searching desperately to see what he saw.

And then it happened. Like a Rubin’s vase or an optical illusion jumping out of the sky.

“I see it! I see the pickle!” I said happily as I leaned forward to look up again.

It only took a few seconds until I started calling out other shapes: a castle, an ice cream cone, a dog chasing its tail.

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