Sunday, February 28, 2016

On Noticing: Cops, Kings, Life

We were in middle school, it was dark, and we were bombing our skateboards down the grass hill/dip next to the Oxford Bellevue Ferry dock. Get up a little speed on the road, and see if you could stay on your board bumping down the grass.

Standing back just a ways in the shadows, was the late and venerable Oxford Police Chief, Wally Jones. No one ever accused him of being stealthy. We all saw him there.

"We NOTICE you!" called one of our crew, with his hand cupped around his mouth. Chief Jones, perturbed, came out of the shadows and let us know what he thought about our new nighttime activity and our attitudes.

I have had that quote, "We notice you," in my head ever since. It was funny, because it came from a kid who none of us would have guessed to say it, and because he used the word notice instead of see.

Yesterday, the girls and I were bombing that same hill/dip, though on our bikes and during the day. It made me think of that night. And it also made me think of noticing things.

Over the past year, I've been noticing birds. Birds I never gave much thought to. A month or so ago, as I sat drinking morning coffee on the couch, I noticed Ruby-Crowned Kinglets in the pyracantha hedge in the yard. Kinglets (along with Cedar Waxwings) are one of the birds I had been waiting to see there. Two years ago that would have been just another bird in the bush.

A few weeks ago, driving over Trippe Creek bridge, sitting on the telephone pole wire next to the bridge, there was a Belted Kingfisher. Clear as day, it was like slow motion, how obvious, like having a flash card perched there. Again, for those who cared to notice.

I had stopped by chair at that exact place, coming out, because right there the spice of wisteria that hung around the house was invaded by the freshness of apple blossoms in a blend that lifted the top of my head. As between those who notice such things and those who don't, I prefer those who do." 
- Wallace Stegner, "Angle of Repose."

Stegner was on to something. Being around folks who notice the odd, the novel, the sublime moments, events, people, smells, sights, around them. Those that notice life. They help me do the same.

And that is something I have tried, over the course of 43 years, to cultivate. Noticing things.

When every day seems the same, it is because we have stopped noticing the good things that appear in our lives. - Paul Coelho, "The Alchemist."

Sunrises. The warmth of a sunny day in February. Wind against my face riding bikes through town with my daughters. Ava's laugh as she hangs upside down for split seconds on a park swing. Laughter while bike bombing grass hills. Searching for and skipping shells on a beach, even one I've seen more times than I can count.