Saturday, July 29, 2017

Take time to notice

One of the self-assignments from the book I'm currently reading is to notice things. Our minds are constantly bombarded throughout the day. If you own a smartphone, the problem is amplified tenfold.

An average brain just cannot process all the information coming at us. As a result, we filter. If new data is not something we're looking for (like a bathroom when we have to pee) then we often see it, but it doesn't interest one of the brain cells assigned to make us notice.  We simply let it drift by like a leaf on a fast-moving stream. If on the other hand, it says an oncoming car is on the wrong side of the road, this immediately engages the old "FIGHT OR FLIGHT"  reflex and you become quite interested in the new information. In fact, it may trigger a hygiene issue while you're trying to figure out how to deal with the new info.

This not noticing is your brain's way of dealing with excess input. There's a flower on the side of the road. I've seen a million of them. No eminent threat there, move on. Over in that field, is a 100-year-old barn. Your brain says, if you've seen one cow palace, you've seen them all.

On long drives, this brain processing is quite helpful. It keeps information from squirting out your ear when your head fills up.

But, this can also do you a disservice – especially if you're a writer. 

Today, on the way home from Mississippi, I saw a field with bales of hay.  I've seen a lot of hay, especially during the heyday of my travels (I couldn't resist.) But when I actually noticed the field and the way the light fell on the field, it was a photographic moment. The only reason it's not the picture for tonight's blog is that there was a log truck close enough to my rear bumper that I could read the serial number on his radiator. But I noticed it.

Further along was a fencerow. Barbed wire kept cattle from wandering into the country road. Many of the fences seen these days are held up by store-bought fence post all straight as Army cadets.  The barbed wire held as taut as a guitar string. But this morning we passed a fence strung during the last century. Many of the posts were ones cut from nearby saplings. About every fifth post was a railroad crosstie. This was the fence from my childhood. Buying a fence post would not have occurred to a farmer in those days. Noticing the fence today, triggered a stream of thought that would normally have drifted past me. I'm thankful I took the time to notice it.

Closer to home, I noticed a field I'd passed in early
August last year. I shot a picture of
a field of sunflowers and posted it.
But today as we passed, the field lay fallow, and I noticed it. 


  1. I shudder to think how much stuff I miss because I'm not "engaged" in that moment. We have to do a "time out" in surgery before we cut. We have to stop doing things like draping the patient or gloving the Doc. We have to listen and then say a big OK or check or roger that. Mistakes can happen when we're not fully engaged. Missing beautiful fields of flowers is one of those mistakes! Glad you noticed them last year.

  2. It also seems the older we get, the more we filter.

  3. You made me laugh with the hygiene issue..I bet we would notice a bathroom right after that incident. I still see these fences every once in a while and I miss that look. It worked and it didn't cost as much as the fancier ones nowadays. When I was little, our neighbour was creating such a fence and I was watching him make it and then helping him. It is a very fond memory because I felt helpful:)

  4. Noticing gives us so many gifts. And not noticing can be dangerous.
    As a child my father always guaged the prosperity of a farm by its fences, a habit I continue.

  5. I do think you have a gift for noticing things that might pass by others. You have to count your blessings and taking time to notice what's right there in front of you is definitely high on my priority list.

  6. I have noticed that in unfamiliar country I notice more detail. AND yes our brains are bombarded and MUST filter! Love the picture as always.

  7. I notice a lot of things when I'm relaxed but when I'm stressed, nothing goes in and of course nothing registers. I have a busy schedule from the time I get up to the time I go to bed and that's not good.

    I have seen myself driving to the city and when I get to the first intersection I panic and have to think where am I going, down town or up town, as I have to make a quick choice of turning left or going straight and other time I catch myself asking how did I get from here to there because it seems like my mind was somewhere else. I wonder if this happens to other people.

    That picture of the sunflower field is beautiful.
    Hugs, Julia

    1. Anonymous12:40 PM

      Many of us drive the same route every day & when we get to our destination we don't remember the actual drive!!

  8. You are so right. The beauty of the world often goes unnoticed because we are paying attention to life's necessities. I love driving in the country to look at the wildflowers. Those are the times that I make beauty a necessity.

  9. I remember those kamikaze log trucks ... yikes!
    Interested in what it is you're reading, Rick. As usual, a great lesson told with humor.

    1. "Several Short Sentences About Writing" by Verlyn Klinkenborg. I mentioned his books a while back. He is an incredible writer.

  10. I often see people staring at their electronics and missing out on what's right in front of them. Sad, really.

  11. Anonymous1:30 PM

    I do think you have a gift for noticing things that might pass by others.



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