*Afterthought #71 – Noticing

Lately I’ve been thinking about noticing, and especially about how often I travel past a tree, a house, a wetland, a shop and fail to notice the color of the leaves, the presence of a porch, the kinds of fowl, or whether there’s an OPEN or CLOSED sign. I’ve become more aware of how much I miss with my inattentiveness through two very different books: The Book of Noticing by Katherine Hauswirth and Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers.

Book-of-Noticing-Final-sm2Hauswirth takes us along on her walks, inviting us to notice “salamanders, scents, science, spirituality, slugs, and more” with lyrical language and astonishing detail. My own excursions become more observant when they’re preceded by reading one of the essays in this collection.

right footEggers (and illustrator Shawn Harris) made me attend to something I’ve never paid attention to, the Statue of Liberty’s right foot. Eggers notes, she’s not actually “standing” at all. He describes the statue’s main features, from crown to gown —and points out that her right heel is not planted but lifted, suggesting, “…she is walking! This 150 foot woman is on the go!” After all, he writes, she’s an immigrant too, and, he suggests, she’s stepping out into the harbor to give new arrivals from Italy and Norway, Cambodia and Estonia, Syrians, Liberians, and all who have or will come an eager welcome.

What might catch your attention in this coming year that you haven’t noticed before?


*Afterthoughts are my blog version of a practice followed in some Quaker meetings. After meeting for worship ends, people continue in silence for a few more minutes during which they’re invited to share thoughts or reflect on the morning’s worship. I’ve adopted the form here for last-day-of-the-month brief reflections on headlines, quotes, books, previous posts, maybe even bumper stickers.


  1. Whoa, how cool is that about our favorite giant green woman? Reminds me of the line from “Hamilton”: “Immigrants–we get the job done.” Also, this whole post reminds me of a recent On Being podcast with a psychologist whose name I don’t remember, who noted that active noticing, per se, has the same physiological effects as yoga. And you don’t have to wear special pants!

  2. I know what you mean about noticing! (Or not noticing!) I can be shockingly oblivious. Last night, Mark and I toasted the new year at the same bar where we met some 27+ years ago! What surprised me was to learn from the new owner that the place had undergone about six or seven new names and owners in the intervening years — I’d only been aware of a couple of them! I love “noticing” that the Statue of Liberty is walking! Happy New Year!

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