Recently, I listened to a conversation with the poet Marie Howe. If you don’t listen already, On Being is a great place to hear poets, physicists, and other big picture thinkers discuss…well, the big picture. And the small picture. Really, it’s just a wellspring of inspiration and mystery. Anyway, Marie Howe mentioned that she has her students do an exercise where they must list 10 observations. Not metaphors – no “The sun shines like a golden earring” or anything. Simple, physical, as-is observations using the senses. Of course I scoffed as if I were above this and could do it no problem. Wrong. It’s hard to do, and so very helpful – whether or not you write. If you practice meditation or mindfulness or any kind of organized religion, this is good to do. I have been starting with 3 – 5 observations. Today, I built it up to 10, and stitched together what follows.
There is a pressure in my chest.
My lips feel smooth and waxy.
My hands feel taut and dry.
And the flowers are dying. (They were once cream colored; now they are yellow.)
Through the water, my straw looks askew – chopped in two parts.
In the water, I see nothing.
Behind the water bottle is my mug full of markers
And behind my mug full of markers is Saint Peter, peeking out at me.
There is a permanent stain on my desk, also peeking out at me,
This time from an old mousepad. It reads “I’d rather be at Fenway” and I agree.
I’ve counted these lines many times, many times, and just now count 10 – a hard number to reach.