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Essay: Seeing the Sights

When my brother and I were almost grown up, our parents decided to take us on one last family trip. So we loaded up Dad’s yellow Buick and drove to the West Coast, taking in all the tourist attractions along the way. Grand Canyon, Disneyland, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Redwoods, Badlands, everything.

Heading back east to Michigan after a month on the road, we stopped at Mount Rushmore. But by then, Bob and I had seen so many sights, we were numb. “Mount Rushmore? Yeah, well, let’s go home.”

I experienced something like this when I went to Europe for the first time in my twenties, living on five dollars a day and racing from country to country, checking off the monuments. And finally, a cathedral was just a big stone church like so many others. Never mind that it was Notre Dame.

So I learned that one-of-a-kind wonders are best appreciated one at a time. Slowly, intimately, reverently. I finally put this awareness into practice while living in Chicago. I worked a block from the Art Institute and I could spend every lunch hour there—could spend an hour or a week or a month staring at one painting.

And those are the paintings I remember. The ones that feed my soul.


Karen Anderson contributes "Essays by Karen Anderson" to Interlochen Public Radio.