Home » Things I have learned so far » Simple Observations on a Sunday Afternoon

Simple Observations on a Sunday Afternoon

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As I came to this post, so many ideas swirled in my brain. The opposite of the standard writer dilemma—not what to write about, but which. Yesterday’s March for Truth through the historic district in my little town. The latest tragedy, this time in London. The simplicity of planting flowers and vegetables and herbs. The passing of a friend’s beloved cat and the reality of grief. The serendipity of finding just the right table (free!) to solve a cluster of storage/decorating challenges. My twentieth anniversary as a full-time independent contractor. The stress of facing bill-paying with more receivables than received.

In the end, I went with the simplest notion of all, one that can never steer a writer wrong: pay attention. The Zen folks speak of the importance of consciousness, of being present. Zen or not, writer or not, noticing what’s around us is important. It can ground us in the here and now, shifting our focus from what has been and what might be to what is, right here, in this moment. The old hymn tells us to count our blessings, name them one by one. I’ve done so below, and I invite you to do the same, starting with what you see and feel and hear and taste and smell right where you are. Shift your focus from what you think to what your senses tell you. Experience your world, just as it is, because I promise you this: it’s unique. Yours isn’t like mine, and mine isn’t like the next person’s.

Make a list. Select the most precise words you can. Create images. Inhabit the place you occupy at this moment. Then, allow your readers to join you.

* * *

The insistent chatter of one bird remonstrating the others who insist on making their own higher-pitched, more melodic chirps and one whose repeated rat-a-tat sounds like a coded message, all overridden by the cawing of a crow

My neighbor’s lawnmower, first its loud roar, and then its deep rumble as he downshifts, followed by the sudden dramatic silence as he turns it off

The clouding sky, so pale it’s more white than gray


The dropping temperature as the anticipated rain moves in

Aching muscles from yesterday’s hours spent raking, bending, digging, planting, watering

The pucker of my tongue from the tannins of cooling tea

Myriad shades of green – mountain laurel, Japanese andromeda, hostas, white oaks, raspberry bushes, moss, grass, ivy, pachysandra, weeds, glider cushion, the cat’s eyes, twisted stakes holding up new tomato plants, plastic table, chair cushion, Adirondack chair painted in a shade slightly lighter than hunter, known in our family as Duquesne Light Company Green (so-called because that’s the paint my grandfather brought home from work when he painted it all those years ago )


The silent elegance of a twenty-pound silver tabby whose nose twitches, discerning scents mine is too feeble to divine

The rustle of a chipmunk darting among the dried leaves beneath the hostas

The intricacy of the white cotton lace tablecloth crocheted by someone (probably several women) in Aruba, where I bought it more than thirty years ago

The gold dusting of pollen on my old black radio/cassette player with the broken antenna

A tiny black insect that flies back and forth in front of my face, dodging my efforts to smack it down

The vibrant pink of the azaleas


The whisper of leaves moving in the increasing breeze

The small white flowers with their yellow centers on one of the many bushes I never planted which will produce berries of some sort later in the summer

The hopefulness of the newly-planted, still struggling from the trauma of moving from greenhouse to garden


The barely-discernable brush of white whiskers against my hand as the silken silver kitty perches on the wide arm of the Adirondack chair, a welcome crowding as I write

Another mower starting up in the near distance

The Sunday paper, columns of neat black typeset mingled with gaily colored slick ads, dropped section by section to the rug until all have been read and the Jumble puzzle is complete and they can be scooped up and deposited in the recycling bin

Slabs of gray and muted red stones leading from the porch alongside the garage, beneath the hemlocks, along the pachysandra, and through the now-overgrown patch of lilies of the valley to the comparatively civilized lawn and driveway


The cool hardness of the stoneware mug, its contents gone cold

Foxgloves popping up in unexpected spots where birds deposited seeds

Gray clapboard contrasting with sharp white trim, the welcoming door from the porch into the house held open by a glass-jar scented candle


The molded resin chairs left behind by the former owners, their maroon arms instantly showing the latest sprinkling of pollen

Nearly silent purring, more felt than heard

The black plastic composter under the hemlocks, its metal frame long since rotted out so that now it must be tipped on its side and rolled around to mix the contents

The hum of traffic on the highway that seems so far away

The gray-green glider assembled entirely by me on this very porch (my lack of engineering talent notwithstanding), with its mismatched cushions because cushions the right size are much harder to find than you might think


The whine of a plane’s engine

The square wooden tray containing the essentials – water glass, tea mug and saucer, phone, inhaler, lip balm, wallet (for online ordering of a ticket to a poetry reading), plate (now empty), wrinkled paper napkin, pen (for the Jumble puzzle), woven blue-and-white napkin as liner to prevent sliding and spilling during transport from kitchen to porch

Tan-gold and dark beige of the indoor-outdoor rug, each block woven in a different pattern

Silver kitty bathing, pausing every few seconds, alert to a change in the birdsong


More tea, sweetened with stevia in an effort to shave calories, the mug now as hot as its contents

The buzz of a chainsaw (so many chores to complete before the rain begins)

A whiff of barbeque smoke from one stalwart griller

Car doors thumping closed as the family next door returns from an outing

Voices, adult and children, as they put away chairs and tables from last night’s birthday party

Children’s laughter bubbling as they play, until the youngest skids into wailing at something that has displeased him, returning moments later to his playful mood

The putt-putt of another mower starting up

The shift in the scent of the air, from nearly indiscernible to the slightest prickle of ozone

The tentative patter of the first raindrops on leaves

The serenity of a screened-in porch as the rain falls outside and the cool moist air drifts through

Rainy Sunday on the porch

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