Friday, May 13, 2022

The Small Delights of Home


Oh, thank goodness it’s Friday. I can let my mind wander a little.

This post from NPR caught my eye this morning. It’s an episode of their Life Kit series, entitled: 

How paying attention can help you appreciate what's right in front of you

Accompanying the twenty minute audio piece is a comic inspired by the piece. I haven’t had time to listen the all of the audio yet, but the comic definitely drew me in. The episode begins:

You know when you go on vacation and you notice every little detail about the place you're visiting? The statues! The billboards! The flowers bursting through the cracks in the sidewalk!

Humans pretty much do the opposite of that when they're in a familiar setting, going on autopilot and failing to notice the small delights of home. It doesn't have to be that way. 

The concept that our lives are so bombarded by distractions that it is difficult to be fully present in one’s immediate surroundings isn’t a new one. But, as our lives become ever more distracted, it’s a message that bears returning to over and over again. During the lockdown part of the pandemic many of us experienced waves of mindfulness in the solitude, whether in nature walks or the sensory connection of baking bread.

It doesn’t take long for that to slip away. 

Artist and writer Jenny Odell, interviewed for this episode, is the author of  How to do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy. The comic, written and illustrated by Connie Hanzhang Jin, adds a visual element to Odell’s suggestions on ways to detach from the daily grind and be more present in the here and now.

As I scanned the comic’s images something leapt out.

Paying consistent attention to one thing can reveal more info over time. Like this statue by Sarah Doherty that I pass almost every day where I live in Baltimore.

Wait, what? There’s a moai statue in Baltimore? Apparently there is. Here’s a piece from the blog Charm City Street Art: Weekly Images: 11.12.12

Photo by Caitlin Rose

Artist Sarah Doherty is a professor at MICA. I found a subsequent photo taken in 2016 that shows a huge amount of change from the original.

Photo by Kathy B.

I wonder if the artist has returned to replace the stucco that had worn away over time. I also wonder what the process of change would have looked like, day after day, for regular passers-by. There’s quite a bit of difference between the two photos. 

Who noticed? Who was there but never saw?

Back when I traveled from school to school one of my favorite sights was a enormous rabbit statue near Dayton Oaks Elementary. It was standing upright, a quite unexpected part of the suburban landscape. Not only whimsical by its very existence, the rabbit (was it cement?  or stucco like the Baltimore moai?) was regularly decorated for major holidays such as Christmas and Easter. I definitely watched that rabbit over time, through seasons changing, through holiday decorations, rainy days and sunny ones. 

Gosh I loved that rabbit. I truly regret that I never stopped the car and got a good photograph. It’s gone now. First cracks appeared and then chunks began to fall off and then it just simply went to pieces.

Your simple walk around your neighborhood is complicated in a lot of ways. Some of them may induce wonder. Some of them may induce despair. But I think I would rather be attentive to all of these things than to just kind of move through the world.

Give yourself some free-form time and space today, and over the weekend, to connect with what’s all around you.

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