On Learning How to Notice

Turns out a daily blogging habit is hard. I had a good run of about a week in November, before I stopped. For me, it’s hard to come up with ideas worth writing about. (Don’t read my morning pages, lest you learn how nonsensical a writer’s sleepy morning thoughts can be.) But when I listened to Nicole Gulotta’s Wild Words podcast this week, I felt a little gust of wind in my sails.

Guest Alisha Sommer explained her daily writing practice of capturing 10 simple observations throughout the day. I can observe 10 things daily, surely! The practice seemed easy enough, especially since my recent meditation practice has been so focused on the practice of noticing. After listening to the podcast, I endeavored to make 10 observations daily, as a running list in my notes.

On that first day, I switched up my routine. I got off the subway one stop early, so I could walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. I didn’t listen to podcasts during my train commute. The SO and I went to a different part of Brooklyn, Sunset Park’s Chinatown, for a little bit of a food adventure. I walked, a lot — nearly 100,000 steps, according to my watch. Shaking up my daily habits, I got to 10 observations fairly easily, but the days I didn’t, the exercise felt forced. My noticings lacked energy; they were gray, flabby. I probably shouldn’t be so critical or judgmental — that’s not the point of the exercise or the meditations, after all — but I’m still learning to see and be present, to quiet my monkey mind enough to notice where I currently occupy space and time. Here’s hoping.

Maybe I can work my way up to a full 10 observations a day, and like Alisha, publish them daily — it feels like a worthy effort, at least. For now, I’ll post 10 a week, as I try to return to this thing called blogging.


The bacon smell emanating from the bodega on my corner. Barely a block away is another bodega — bigger, with more food options — but this bodega has the chips I like.

Caught a brief glimpse of the subway station agent trying to train her surprisingly wild pothos to climb some electrical tubing inside her booth. She may as well have been taming Medusa’s snaky locks.

Check it: spicy, cumin-flecked lamb and al dente Chinese hand-pulled pastas are the new penicillin. God, I feel alive.

As I was sitting on a train, a man with faded knuckle tattoos stood in my eye-line. I must have had a look on my face as I tried to make out what they once were, because when I looked up, he put his hands in his pockets. Awkward.

Saw a guy who looks like me — tortoiseshell glasses, beard, black hair, vague origin of brownness — wearing a cowl neck. It looked good; should I be wearing more cowl necks?

Listened to eight different languages being spoken while walking across the Brooklyn Bridge one morning. The words were carried away by gusts of wind.

On the crowded rush hour C train into Brooklyn, an Afro-Latina mother was scolding her daughters about not doing their homework in a timely fashion. They got off at Nostrand, and the car felt cold, stony.

Meditated on my morning subway commute. Wiggling my toes to return to awareness felt silly and rebellious. More of that.

Got a light blocker on my monitor at work, and it’s a world of difference. My eyes are no longer burning deserts at 2 p.m.

The quality of sunset this time of year is something to behold. Golden like a meyer lemon, warm like a bed you just exited but immediately returned to.

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