In childhood, everything is new. The first time you see a a bird's nest, an electromagnet, a pollywog, a touchlamp, a blue-eyed dog, a Spirograph... you're enthralled.
But by the time you've lived more than 14,000 coherent days, it's easy to get skeptical. The "heard it all, seen it all, did it all" attitude just sort of comes over you naturally with the passage of time.
Sure, some strive to keep taking in new experiences by vacationing in far-off lands or scheduling "never did that before" events like whitewater rafting or African safaris. Unfortunately, unless it's done on purpose, there's not a lot new out there to see in everyday life besides the newest appliance, cell phone, or car model.
But tonight I saw something new while I was taking Dakota out for his final potty break of the evening. I'd brushed as much excess hair from him as I could, leaving the grass around him completely white, as if dusted with powdered sugar.
A group of five or six neighborhood kids were out on their own safari, marching up and down stairs, investigating the apartment complex's hidden fascinations, and discussing their deep kid one-upsmanship topics like, "I can count to purple backwards."
Dakota was, as always, a feature draw, and I fielded the standard questions ("Is that a snow dog?" "Can I pet him?" "Is he a wolf?" etc.).
Once the tiny platoon moved on, I saw that dusk was fully upon us, and Dakota still hadn't done his business. (He gets more than a little rattled being surrounded by many hands and voices.)
Just as I was about to give up and try again in the morning, I thought I saw a reflection out of the corner of my eye. Far across the parking lot on a third floor balcony, a woman smoked a cigarette. Was that what I had seen? Possibly.
But suddenly I saw it again. Closer to the ground this time. Like a spark jumping from a fireplace. A few seconds later, another one - bigger than the last, like a tiny explosion quickly disappearing.
It took my brain a few seconds to access the data I'd taken in since moving here. Then it registered - they were fireflies (or lightning bugs, as they're apparently called 'round these parts).
A brand new experience, which even exceeded my expectations.
Is this the last new thing I'll see? Doubtful. And it occurred to me that, while I might not have a brand new and unique experience like this every day, it is possible to observe life with that childlike wonder again. You see, every tree, every cloud, every bird that I'll see tomorrow will be unique, having some visual stimulus to offer.
Okay, maybe that's a little deep, a little overboard, a little too weird. It might just be the nonsensical ramblings of a man about to drop off to sleep. Or it could be the birth of a whole new paradigm. My guess? It's probably somewhere in the middle.