Thursday, May 7, 2009

Things I Saw Today

Today I saw some things.

Blanket of white flower petals sticking to a near-perfect circle of oil in the company parking lot.

Journal entry magnified and distorted through a big water bottle.

Old man with a toothbrush behind his ear, like a pencil.

Blue sky. I had to look again. Blue sky.

Glassy brown eyes. Didn't I sleep?

A new hole in the fence.

A robin on the hood of a maroon Corvette.

Greasy fellow in a wife-beater and gold chains riding a beater bike in the road.

Framed poster of The New York Times, Jan 5, 1956: "MIT to Open School for Studies on High Level."

Hundreds of feet of tarp that will be a tent on graduation day.

Professor-wife of my professor/adviser who I'd somehow never seen.

A McDonald's fashion t-shirt for $7.

Down's Syndrome woman opening a bag of chips with her teeth.

Gulliver's Travels sliding down the book return chute at the wrong library.

Girl I work with, in the parking lot, didn't recognize me. Must be the eyes.

Meter maid riding a Segway.

Ingredients on a Pepsi Max can, and the West Virginia stamp on the can top.

A pothole that could swallow a motorcycle.

Too much produce.

Several bad drivers, mostly in white cars.

Fortune in a cookie: "The next few days are a lucky time for you. You can take a chance."


This has been an experiment, because I feel like I almost always smell, feel, and hear what I write more than I ever see it. It's funny because the seeing comes out in this matter-of-fact way, since I'm not used to observing (input) or writing (output) like that. I purposely tried to keep out metaphor and figurative speech, but once I'm used to seeing I'll let more in.

This was just an idea I had, but it's probably an exercise they recommend in those how-to-write books, which I have some experience with from writer's groups. I've always had the best handle on place and grounding, a pretty good grasp of character, and absolutely no talent for plot (Aristotle would hate my stories). I try to hone my better skills and remain unapologetic about the absent ones. So the object of this was to work on showing things as they are, so that I can then show them how I want them to be appear. The right picture to present to the reader probably lies somewhere in between.

Going back to a recommendation from Virginia Woolf, who I can't seem to shake (nor do I really want to!), I think this summer is going to be a time for my "fictitious mind" to get some exercise. Besides those philosophy papers I'm writing for conferences next fall, I want to write some damn stories! Of course, I'm sure my critical mind will try to dominate again, and we'll be back to August before I do anything creative.

UPDATE: 5 Minutes Later....I keep trying to think of more things to write but every time I think of one it's a taste or something. Damn. What a short list. I'll get the hang of it.

UPDATE: 9pm... My hard working eyes were rewarded with one of the most breath-taking twilights I've witnessed, in any season, in any place. Watching the sun set was nothing compared to watching this patchy pink twilight be swallowed up in deep blue. The backlit sky was like the ceiling at the Venetian, but instead of vulgarizing the scene, the reference made it all the more amazing -- a real sky, perfect enough to imitate in man-made tromp l'oeil, then given back to the heavens and the winds to suspend it and carry it on by for our enjoyment. I turned round to find the moon had joined in the show, spraying some glow over grey seafoam clouds. Soon it was wrapped in the folds of them, and I turned back to see the moving peach-pink was now a dusty celing. I was in a snow globe, but instead of snow, white petals, and instead of snow-smell, lilacs. And as the clouds closed the gaps between themselves, the scents grew stronger. The pressure dropped and my head grew clear. I was truly on the ground, in one place. And I stood there in the driveway until the neighbors came out and looked at me.

All this would have been way more, uh, spiritual if Aja hadn't been blasting from the screen door.


  1. I like these. It may be my matter-of-factness speaking, but I found them enjoyable. You seem to have had very interesting day, filled with segways and chinese food, I am envious.

  2. I've mislead my readers -- the fortune cookie was a gift. My lunch was not that tasty:

    A blue bowl full of green-black spinach lumped up with white cubes, a slick of oil on top, shining in the May sun. A bee bumbling away from it.

    Not all indian food in bags is good! Just most of it.


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