Detail.

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Bloody Butcher Corn.  Dar Dawson, 2016.  all rights reserved.

There is beauty in the detail.

There is detail in the beauty.

There is also a great deal of misunderstanding of the nature of curiosity and exploration and pondering things to unusual depths – some call this ‘overthinking’.  Others call it ‘being too sensitive’.  The compliment is frequently, “Wow – you notice everything!” while the belittlement is similarly effusive but of very different tone.  “My god, why do you have to notice everything?!”

Last week, in a quiet moment at work, I showed a coworker how I could twist my tongue almost 360 degrees lengthwise around and back again in the other direction.  Like a log roll (as opposed to one of those party tooters that uncurls and tweets when you blow through).  She howled with laughter then complimented me on the agility of my eyebrows and how they can arch independently of each other.

“I wish I could do that.  How did you learn to do that!?”

In decades past my answer has been, ‘Oh, I’m just weird’ and smile ‘tah dah.’  But I trust this coworker and friend so I shared with her the hours I used to spend in my childhood bedroom, staring into the mirror over my dresser, making faces at myself.  Training one eyebrow to go really far up while the other rested, unchanged.  Then, I’d learn the other side to the do the same.  Similarly, I would gape into the mirror while making faces until I mastered which muscles did what with my tongue.  It took a while to get it right.

“You mean you had that much time as a kid to…be alone…?”  And, yes, there were days I was relegated to ‘go play’ in my room for hours at a time.  It was our mother’s way of getting us out of her beauty-parlored hair.  It also kept the house relatively tidy; no toys downstairs, except on rare occasion, so nothing to clean up.  

When I was older, I moved out of my room and onto my 10-speed and spent most of the good weather outside, riding to places I was forbidden to go.  Down to and across the highway, up long private driveways, our town, neighboring towns, a candy store, certain boy’s houses across the same dangerous highway and most definately across the train tracks.  Basically, I was allowed to ride only in our neighborhood of crusty old money geezers and one Italian family who sent all their kids to Catholic school in plaid. But I figured what our mother didn’t know wouldn’t kill her so I rode for miles in one direction – half the time length until my curfew, then back again.  I did this a lot – disobeyed and explored at the same time.

On those rides, I noticed everything.  House paint, chippy numbers on mailboxes, bird calls, fenced dogs.  Every divot out of the roadway and every high-stink roadkill in pieces in the sand left from winter’s snow and ice.  I knew where there were horses hidden in the trees and where there was a mattress pile in the woods down the road from our house.  The mini bike trails were a tangled mess of tall grass and overgrown woods, and the fog of pot and rusting beer cans kept me from actually biking through more times than not.

Sunday, we visited a friend’s home where she has a small farmstead.  A pair of cinnamon and sugar goats, red and glossy oxblood chickens, immature mallards and fawn colored ducks and a goose, and a pack of mismatched dogs are on the property.  She grew corn this summer; wilder, earthier varieties than peg or sugar or plain yellow and ground some into meal then baked the most mouthful cornbread.  I loved every detail of our visit and wandering through the massive, peculiar bamboo forest that is overtaking a once-tiered manicured formal garden of that 1920’s plantation estate.

Every detail.  Every day.  It is a blessing and a curse.

I cannot help but notice everything and, I believe, the tiniest of details are there to help us see the bigger picture.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. SG says:

    Always, Jennifer. I believe this too.

  2. GP says:

    My dad and son, daughter can wiggle their ears. I can never “find” the muscles no matter how much I try 🙂

  3. JRF says:

    As usual, I am a few conversations behind. But I feel compelled to comment yet again on the remarkable parallel universes of life experience we’ve had, at least in a few domains.

    I started my bold rides of exploration and independence around age 9, when I still rode a 3-speed – most frequently across Frost Pond Road into “Glen Cove” to go to the deli/candy store hidden back in that neighborhood where many schoolmates lived. I’m sure my mother would have disapproved, but I don’t remember her ever thinking to set limits on where I could ride. I also spent a lot of time riding trails in the woods (ones John M and I made around my house and others I discovered down the road and closer to yours) and along the paths through the field between HF Road and B’ville Lane that existed before that natural area succumbed to development. When I got my 10-speed (age 13?), I rode it EVERYWHERE. I don’t remember at what point my mother became aware of what I did with my weekends, and whether her permission was explicit or not, but I regularly rode huge circuits that ranged farther with each year – all through the main and back roads of Glen Cove, Locust Valley, and Mill Neck, to Bayville Beach regularly, to Oyster Bay a few times, to my father’s in Port Washington, and even to Roosevelt Field once (where my bike was stolen, despite being locked). I had a tremendous amount of freedom but increasingly lived the philosophy of “what my mom doesn’t know won’t hurt her (or me)” as time went on. Honestly, I think she was relieved when I started riding across the highway to school so that she didn’t have to drive me to/from sports practices. I also WALKED to/from school regularly, starting in jr high. For me, it was a way of proving that I didn’t need her (among other things). We moved across the highway in the middle of sophomore year, within walking distance of the HS. It’s funny, I picture all of my rides originating in Brookville, though I’m sure I continued to take long bike journeys. I also tended to ride by the houses of guys I wanted to get to know better – repeatedly – and NEVER managed those chance encounters I imagined (UGH – not a ritual I’m proud of!).

    As for the topic of detail orientation . . . it seems as if, over the course of our lifetime, the accepted norm has continued to shift toward anti-intellectual, anti-sincerity, and anti-introspection. The mass media regularly glorify idiocy. All of those formerly appreciated propensities – let’s call them collectively “thoughtfulness” in the broadest sense – require attention to detail. It’s difficult to pinpoint cause/effect (I’m not sure it’s even possible or necessary), but distractions abound in modern society, and most of us find ourselves increasingly caught up in them, according to my own experience and observations, and my friends’ reports. Many of those distractions are not only entertaining, but give us quick fixes of the connection with others that we all crave, as well as common subjects to discuss. I find it ironic that we all want and need deep connection and yet we live in a culture that reinforces the superficial.

    My own attention to detail is all or nothing, depending on my physical and psychological comfort at any given moment. Generally, I’m always clued in to behavior, and I listen intently to what people say (or read and remember what they write). Understanding where others are coming from and communicating clearly and cleanly are of utmost importance to me. Because of this, I hear over and over again that I’m “too serious” (a companion epithet to “overthinking” and “too sensitive”). Yet, I find humor in almost everything, especially my own foibles, and in both the patterns and the randomness of the universe. There’s little I take very seriously besides doing what I can to help people to feel safe and heard. It takes attention to detail, which occasionally leads to derision and dismissal (products of discomfort). No matter. I feel good about myself when I remain in integrity with my own values and go about life consciously, rather than distractedly. I have friends, family, and co-workers who value my take because, as you point out, attention to detail helps me to see and understand a bigger picture. And I enjoy life!

    I’m also enjoying learning more about yours. Thanks for sharing.

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