Noticing the important stuff
My parents often accuse me of being unobservant and uninterested in the world around me.
Whenever I visit, they make a point of remarking on all the things I haven’t noticed, ambushing me with questions like “What do you think of our new floor?” or “What do you think of the garden?”
My vague responses inevitably disappoint them because they’ve done all this work on their house and the garden, and very little of it registers with me. “I cannot believe you have not gone out back to look at the garden yet,” my father kept saying when I visited in July. “Now that you have your own garden, I would think you’d be a little more interested!”
Personally, I wasn’t sure what the rush was: I was visiting for a whole week, and the garden wasn’t going anyplace. Eventually I wandered over and took a look at it, and I did notice things I wouldn’t have noticed in the past, like how neat and tidy it is. Now that I have my own garden, I understand how much effort is involved in getting a garden to look pretty and organized as opposed to wild and unruly, which is what my garden looks like.
Later I informed my parents that I had checked out the garden, but this dutiful report seemed inadequate when compared with the interest and enthusiasm of various friends. These friends don’t need to be prodded into looking at the garden. Unlike me, they gravitate toward it, asking all kinds of questions. I suspect that this behavior is fairly typical: My parents have been threatening to visit, and the main reason they want to come is to see my garden.
For the record, I don’t think of myself as unobservant and uninterested in the world around me, although I will admit that there are a number of things I’m highly unlikely to notice or pay attention to. This list includes:
* Who’s doing well on “American Idol,” “The Voice,” or any other reality TV show.
* Hoopla about the new iPhone, or any other expensive gadget that I will likely never buy.
* Designer jeans
The list of things I’m likely to notice is much longer, and includes:
* Deer. Deer are surprisingly common in Albany and the greater Capital Region, and I keep an eye out for them when I ride my bike at dusk. I remember spotting a deer through the bus window while riding to a soccer game; much to my amazement, only one other person on my team noticed it.
* Doughnuts. Today some doughnuts appeared in the office, and when I saw them, I exclaimed, “Doughnuts!” Then I grabbed a doughnut and ate it for dessert.
* Ducks. This summer I greatly enjoyed going for walks at Empire State Plaza because a couple different duck families had settled there, and I could swing by every night and see how the ducklings were doing. I especially enjoyed watching them when they were little, and the mother ducks would lie on top of them while they slept, and you could see their bodies poking out from beneath her.
* People playing soccer. When I walk through Lincoln Park in Albany, I often encounter groups of people playing soccer, which makes me happy because I used to play soccer, and I enjoy watching it. Also, the people who play in Lincoln Park are pretty good. Just watching them juggle a soccer ball is a treat.
* The price of gas.
My sense is that I’m pretty attuned to the things that interest me, which is why I’m much more likely to notice a deer eating plants at the Corning Preserve than a fancy new handbag.
Of course, interests can change and evolve, and often depend on context and circumstance. For instance, I’ve found that my own garden has held my interest, despite my lack of interest in other people’s gardens.
On a recent trip to my plot, I was delighted to discover bulbous white eggplants beginning to emerge, surprisingly large Hungarian wax peppers and an ovally yellow-green striped squash, which I promptly picked and took home, even though I had no idea what to do with it. (After some research, I’ve decided to slice it in half, scoop out the gunk, replace the gunk with butter and brown sugar, and bake it.) I examined the basil, which has done OK — I’ve made pesto several times — and marveled at the monstrous zucchini plant and out-of-control tomatoes.
With the onset of fall has come a sense of my garden’s own mortality.
At some point it will frost, and the basil will die. And the beans will die. And so will the tomatoes, the peppers and everything else. I might not be aware of the latest technology, or the contestants on “Survivor,” but I see the leaves changing and the temperature dropping. I wonder how much longer the ducks will remain at the plaza, and face the gradual loss of daylight with mounting dread.
But I’m trying not to be too glum about the end of summer.
Every season has its pleasures, and almost every day brings something new or interesting or enjoyable.
One of the highlights of my week was waking up to the sound of heavy rain, which drummed soothingly on the ground and pavement, providing a rhythmic alternative to the sounds that usually greet me in the morning, such as traffic and the conversations of passers-by. I lay there for quite a while, listening to the music of the downpour and enjoying the cool, crisp breeze.
I might not notice everything, but I try to notice the important stuff.
Foss Forward makes a weekly appearance in print, in The Gazette’s Saturday Lifestyles section. You can email Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org.