The Noticing

Image: #everydaybandw (unpublished), by JES

[Image: one of my #everydaybandw series — as the tag suggests, photos of this-and-that encountered in the course of everyday life, rendered in black-and-white; most of these are on Instagram, but I thought this one required cropping (which I’ve tried to avoid doing there).]

From whiskey river:

Week after week, year after year, after art class I walked the vast museum, and lost myself in the arts, or the sciences. Scientists, it seemed to me as I read the labels on display cases (bivalves, univalves; ungulates, lagomorphs), were collectors and sorters, as I had been. They noticed the things that engaged the curious mind: the way the world develops and divides, colony and polyp, population and tissue, ridge and crystal. Artists, for their part, noticed the things that engaged the mind’s private and idiosyncratic interior, that area where the life of senses mingles with the life of the spirit: the shattering of light into color, and the way it shades off round a bend. The humble attention painters gave to the shadow of a stalk or the reflected sheen under a chin, or the lapping layers of strong stokes, included and extended the scientists’ vision of each least thing as unendingly interesting. But artists laid down the vision in the form of beauty bare — Man Walking — radiant and fierce, inexplicable without the math.

It all got noticed: the horse’s shoulders pumping; the sunlight warping the air over a hot field; the way the leaves turn color, brightly, cell by cell; and even the splitting, half-resigned feeling you have when you notice you are walking on the earth for a while now — set down for a spell — in this particular time for no particular reason, here.

(Annie Dillard [source])

and (italicized portion):

It means for us simply that we must be careful with our lives, for Christ’s sake, because it would seem that they are the only lives we are going to have in this puzzling and perilous world, and so they are very precious and what we do with them matters enormously. Everybody knows that. We need no one to tell it to us. Yet in another way perhaps we do always need to be told, because there is always the temptation to believe that we have all the time in the world, whereas the truth is we do not. We have only one life, and the choice of how we are going to live it must be our own choice, not one that we let the world make for us.

(Frederick Buechner [source])


Isn’t it wonderful to be alive?

You know, you can forget all about it.

Then suddenly you remember, and think of all the things you can do. Here I am. I can walk around. I can talk. I can see things and remember things.

I am alive.

How wonderful.

(Sophia Loren [source: various, none canonical])

Not from whiskey river:

We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.

Every day, God gives us the sun — and also one moment in which we have the ability to change everything that makes us unhappy. Every day, we try to pretend that we haven’t perceived that moment, that it doesn’t exist — that today is the same as yesterday and will be the same as tomorrow. But if people really pay attention to their everyday lives, they will discover that magic moment. It may arrive in the instant when we are doing something mundane, like putting our front-door key in the lock; it may lie hidden in the quiet that follows the lunch hour or in the thousand and one things that all seem the same to us. But that moment exists — a moment when all the power of the stars becomes a part of us and enables us to perform miracles.

(Paulo Coelho [source])



At the drycleaners I stand in line, my feet
shuffling weight from side to side,
impatience all over me while the woman,
light brown, with her Creole story drones on.
In New Orleans none would notice.
She’s exotic in Baltimore, a dawn bird
everything hears. Even the clerk
leans into her tale, clucking softly. When
people behind me cough, she won’t be
rushed. She’s got her whole story to go.
Soon there’s a man she never married,
her mother opposed, far away still, and he
went into a bar, wrong place, wrong color,
wrong words, maybe, a good man.
He’ll never come away of there, not comin’
home, geraniums on the back porch,
and not replace the bad tire her Honda has,
who could always be telling her what time
does in the kitchen if she stand half
naked letting his dog go on out. So
let me pay you for him, give you money
because you is nice and I remember,
her nearly singing voice sighs. The sleeved
pants, two shirts hang on the brass ring, all
finished, unclaimed, the stiffened
stains gone away. The perfectly starched
cloth a redemption so beautiful
it might be the linen of royalty, but small
for a man two of us will think of as
sleep scuffs house walls like tide under a boat.
How nice they are, these women doing
the little one person can for another
which is, in the end, a wash
of memorable words that leave you standing.

(Dave Smith [source])

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