October 26, 2007

Life is in the details

Yesterday my goal was to seek out opportunities for creativity in my daily rituals. I was looking for sensory details, which I'm always trying to add to my writing, to enrich my existence. The first step–observe what's already there, the second step–improve on it.

First smell of the day, blissfully, is the strong aroma of Sumatra coffee that’s released when I open the plastic coffee container we keep in the freezer. The aroma is intensified when the gurgling coffeemaker starts to brew and sends it’s addictive scent throughout the house.

Walking out to get the paper offers my favorite view each morning–the constellations etched into the very early morning sky. It’s the best time to see Orion, bow drawn back, hunting in the black blue darkness. I always look for him first. Maybe he’s my favorite because I’m a Sagittarian. I don’t look for any other specific constellations right away. I take a few seconds to appreciate the multitude of sparkling lights and then try to find the skewed “W” that represents Cassiopia. After assuring myself that the world is oriented correctly I move on.

Picking up the papers is another sensory opportunity these days. The plastic newspaper bags, slightly damp from the early morning moisture, are covered with the fine grit of ash that has dusted everything here. Southern California is burning up right now, but our ash isn’t from the new fires. The Santa Ana winds have given us a fresh reminder of the Zaca fire that burned for two months last summer. When I pull off the bags my fingers are blackened.

Making lunch unleashes splashes of creativity. Cucumber in hand, I pick up the peeler and contemplate the possibilities. I decide to peel large stripes of skin, creating thinly striped circles of pale green edged with alternating areas of dark green. First I think they look like pinwheels but then I imagine mini circus tents dotting the cutting board. Satisfied, I move onto the mustard. I stare down at two blank slates, thawing slices of white bread that fiber-phobic Paul bought at the store. I pick up the cool plastic bottle and squirt. Vivid yellow Nike swooshes appear on first one, then the other. A second later the swoosh is gone, smeared into a smooth mustard frosting. Layers of turkey are folded to fit on half of the bread and topped with concentric, overlapping disks of cucumber. The two half sandwiches are sliced into perfect squares, with green leafy lettuce peeking out from the edges. My artistic urges are temporarily satisfied.

Early morning sensory details conclude with the lighting of the scented candle when I take a shower. I do some of my best thinking in the shower and I love to turn off the lights and bathe in the combined glow of candlelight and the pale morning sun that comes in through the frosted glass windows. I let the bathroom steam up. The fan is too noisy and interrupts my thoughts. When I get out I dry off carelessly. The towel, still damp from yesterday’s shower, holds a lingering moist scent. Then I hurry to write down what I’ve been thinking about before it slips away.

My last consciously creative act of the day takes place at work. I share my “office” with a wall stapled with classroom art. The most recent offering comes from three different second grade classes. Scarecrows and pumpkins honoring fall have been unevenly scattered on the grey fabric covering the wall. Crooked art makes me a little crazy, but it’s the starkness of the display that spurs me into action. I head to the workroom, paw through the box of recyclable construction paper scraps until I have a batch of green, orange, yellow and red pieces. Grabbing the leaf block I force them into the die-cut machine and pull hard on the handle, hoping the dull blade will work this time. Victory. With small colored maple leaves in hand I go back to my space. Calmer now, I scatter the leaves over the wall, staple them into place and bring the display to life.

As I write this I’m satisfied with my creative efforts from yesterday. Looking for the sensory details could be a positive new addiction. Adding them to my life and my writing is a win-win.

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