A fun exercise I’ve mentioned before: When you’re outside moving at a human pace (or sitting, or staring out your window), consider “noticing” as an intentional act. Focus your senses on a theme for a few minutes or a whole walk. Keep it in the back of your mind or focus all your available energy on it. Try it.
- Notice the colour red. And notice how varied the red shades might be. Try other colours. Look for each colour in the rainbow. Look for jewels.
- Notice things that look like others things. I am fond of noticing non-snakes, which usually appear to me first as snakes. More examples below.
- Notice shapes. Maybe spirals, circles, hearts, diamonds, triangles, stars.
- Notice spots and stripes.
- Notice thresholds and crossings.
- Notice borders and boundaries.
- Notice textures: feathery, velvety, crunchy, smooth, mushy, bristly, slippery, bumpy, etched, gravelly, metallic, jagged, spongy, ridged, diaphanous, translucent. Touch things.
- Notice webs and things that resemble webs.
- Notice what’s barely hanging on; what’s dancing in the dark; what speaks of grief; what ebbs and flows; blurry lines; troubled water; the hungry and the haunted; little worlds falling apart; two, side by side in orbit; what’s turned away; what’s a stone’s throw away.
- Notice sounds: creaking, rustling, crunching, crashing, cawing, howling, barking, buzzing, croaking, quacking, splashing, water flowing, bubbling, tinkling, squeaking, waves crashing, chirping, tapping, silence.
- Notice symmetry.
- Notice tiny things. Crouch down or sit down and look at what’s small. Look at the details. (You could start with lichens.) Look underneath things.
- Notice what calls your name. Notice what whispers your name.
I like to notice fungi, rocks, driftwood, etc. that look like animals. (To me, anyway, at that moment, and that’s all that matters.)
And I’m also prone to seeing food in non-food objects.
This practice can also work inside, when you’re moving slowly, sitting, or standing, perhaps in a medical waiting room or a bank. Some places, like a grocery store or library, could be overwhelming with stimuli, but that could also make them good places to create a narrow focus for yourself, just one thing you’re intent on noticing among the cacophony of activity and things. (Just don’t forget there are other people around.)
If you get tired of focusing, let it go. Get loose, unfocused, vague again. Notice what you notice then.
“Gathering is peculiar, because you see nothing but what you’re looking for. If you’re picking raspberries, you see only what’s red, and if you’re looking for bones you see only the white. No matter where you go, the only thing you see is bones.”― Tove Jansson, The Summer Book
Featured image: mossy patterned cement area near NH lake