sign

While lying on the floor recent­ly work­ing out some kinks, I noticed some­thing I had nev­er seen before. On the under­side of a bed­side table that’s been in our home for at least two decades, there was writ­ing. Intrigued, I scoot­ed clos­er to read the black stamped let­ter­ing: NO X 17 LAMP TABLE SPICE BROWN 10–65.

The dis­cov­ery of this very pedes­tri­an fac­to­ry mark­ing was odd­ly thrilling. Here I was think­ing I knew every­thing there was to know about this lit­tle table. I had car­ried it from house to house and dust­ed it a thou­sand times. And sud­den­ly, today, it looked dif­fer­ent. As I stud­ied it in won­der­ment, I noticed some­thing else. Scrawled in pen­cil on the inside of each wood­en leg was a three-dig­it num­ber: 169, 170, 171, 172. How on earth had I nev­er seen this before? And why those par­tic­u­lar num­bers on the legs? Seems my famil­iar old table was not so famil­iar after all. Who knew?

I spend a lot of time lying on floors. (I’m also skilled at look­ing out win­dows.) Floors, unlike those peo­ple-pleas­ing couch­es and beds, don’t con­cern them­selves with our com­fort. They’re like cats in that way. But this par­tic­u­lar floor was not the one on which I usu­al­ly recline. I had cho­sen it on this chilly fall morn­ing because an intense beam of sun­light had warmed it to gold­en per­fec­tion. (Another use­ful les­son learned from many cats over the years, may they all rest in peace.)

I just fin­ished read­ing Ross Gay’s best­seller, The Book of Delights, (avail­able at our fan­tas­tic pub­lic library, once I return it). This may be at least par­tial­ly respon­si­ble for my recent bed­side table rev­e­la­tion. Gay’s col­lec­tion of 101 super-short mus­ings — “essayettes”, he calls them — res­onates deeply with me because, I, too, delight in notic­ing, but don’t always make it a priority.

So why do we notice so lit­tle? Why do we stay in our com­fort­able ruts, lying day after day on the same famil­iar floor, miss­ing out on the details that might ignite our cre­ativ­i­ty, change our lives for the bet­ter — or at least make them a lit­tle more fun?

A cat­a­lyst for cre­ativ­i­ty (in art-mak­ing, in life) is notic­ing — the sig­nif­i­cant, cer­tain­ly, but maybe even more impor­tant­ly, that which seems insignif­i­cant: the jet con­trail over­head dis­solv­ing slow­ly into blue… the sounds in a silent room… the unre­quit­ed love song in a cricket’s mid­night chirp… that churn­ing, burn­ing grief mas­querad­ing as rage.

At this point, you might be ask­ing your­self, who has time for such non­sense? How could indulging in unpro­duc­tive, self-absorbed navel-gaz­ing pos­si­bly help? Why am I even read­ing this?

Good ques­tions, all (espe­cial­ly that last one).

What we’re real­ly talk­ing about here is… what, exact­ly? Artsy-fart­sy bull­shit? New-age woo-woo? Not in my book. And not in Ross Gay’s book, either.

Gay had a sim­ple idea: every day, for one year, he would notice some­thing delight­ful. He would jot it down quick­ly. He would keep it short. He had oth­er things to do, just like us.

So here’s my idea, sparked by his: let’s notice how we’re spend­ing our time. And more impor­tant­ly, let’s pay atten­tion to how that’s work­ing for us. If we’re hap­py with the results, let’s go with god. If we’re not, let’s make some­thing — a change. (If you’re prag­mat­ic, make it an experiment.)

Just for a minute, let’s stop. Let’s breathe. Let’s look around and lis­ten. If our knees aren’t shot, and we can get up with­out help, let’s lie on the floor and see what we’ve been miss­ing. We might just be delighted.

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    Adra Fisher grew up in Winchester, moved away in her ear­ly 20s and returned a quar­ter of a cen­tu­ry lat­er. She enjoys all types of art and encour­ag­ing oth­ers to live creatively.