Tag Archives: Art of Observation

Getting Out Into It


I want to put in a quick word today for the World (see photo above.)  You know the one –  it’s outside our heads (I know I spend way too much time in that dark cave) and outside our works-in-progress; it’s the one we tend to forget sometimes because we’re busy making up stories and poems about the world. I want to advocate getting out into it, even though it means putting aside our writing for part of each day. Let’s allow Memory and Meaning to take a much needed nap. Let’s stay in the moment, gathering up rain coats and wool caps (Pacific Northwest-style) or sunscreen and straw hats (Southwest-style?) and commiting ourselves to new sources of inspiration in the world of the senses. 

(“New sources of inspiration….” I hear a little voice saying. “Why even worry about whether it has a purpose. Why try to justify it??? Just do it.”)

I think that little voice is too cavalier. I like to have reasons. So here is a writer’s reason to get out into the great, wide, beautiful, wonderful world: Each time we do, we re-learn the Art of Noticing Things, aka Observation. We also re-learn how to bow down to Serendipity – “an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.”

By getting out into it, you might notice for the first time in a long time how sunlight hits the leaves of a tree unevenly, letting some leaves shine and allowing others to remain in the shade:


You might discover a blue woman falling apart on a wall:


You might come upon a view that opens up wide…to an olive orchard…


…or one that narrows down and invites you in:


I went for a walk on Decatur Island once – in Washington’s Puget Sound – and discovered the carcass of a young fawn, half cleaned bones, half recognizable animal, at the high-tide mark. Not all discoveries are sweet, though all are worthwhile. And all of them make you hesitate, lean in, look more carefully. Let’s hear a cheer for hesitation!


Beach walks are alive with serendipity. An agate, a jellyfish, a sand dollar. A dead fawn.

And now, for your reading pleasure, I offer the opening stanzas (it only has four) of William Brighty Rands’ poem Great Wide Beautiful Wonderful World

Great, wide, beautiful, wonderful World,
With the wonderful water round you curled,
And the wonderful grass upon your breast,
World, you are beautifully dressed.

The wonderful air is over me,
And the wonderful wind is shaking the tree –
It walks on the water, and whirls the mills,
And talks to itself on the tops of the hills.

You friendly Earth, how far do you go,
With the wheat-fields that nod and the rivers that flow,
With cities and gardens, and cliffs and isles,
And people upon you for thousands of miles?

I’m going to end the excerpt there, because I prefer Rands’ question to his conclusion. While writing is often our way of trying to find answers, getting out into the world helps us re-learn how to ask questions. Like this: Is there anything more beautiful than a raspberry?




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