Survival in details.

I’m very observant and it’s something I value. It’s useful for work – entering a house, I can tell if something’s been moved or not; I can pick up on those small signs which tell me if someone’s not travelling well, or has something dark or sinister going on, or if there’s something that I need to follow up. It makes me a better writer – how could a writer fail to be observant of the world around, the world in which narrative and poetry must be drawn? It makes me a better friend – I notice what’s going on in the lives of the people I love, and who love me. Plus, it makes life more interesting: a bus trip becomes an ethnographical adventure, or a trip into a moving art gallery, or a glimpse into a world far removed from my own.

Plus, being observant kept me alive. I don’t mean that I cunningly observed a note-to-self reading “Kill Naomi” and plotted my own escape in some penny-dreadful thriller; I mean that an eye for detail gave me something to focus on, something to hold onto. A rough hand in my hair, a fist bunched threatening in front of my face and the sure knowledge of a beating to come, but my attention would be caught by the very end of a cat’s tail, a fuzzy worm resting just in the doorway, and my world would narrow down to that one point of detail, and my mind could hang peacefully from that small point of precision while my body got through what it had to get through. A dust-bunny, trapped in the curve of an electrical cord; the quality of light playing against the cornice of the ceiling; the feel of the blanket’s weave against my cheek. It was details, as much as anything else, which got me through what I had to get through.

There’s a flip side to this eye for detail, of course – I think that every personality trait probably has its dysfunctional counterpart, that darkness about it which turns it into a double-edged sword. But there are times I’m grateful for how my brain works, and for how my memory works, and I’m grateful for my capacity to notice details, and I’m sure as hell grateful for details’ capacity to get me through those things my mind simply couldn’t deal with.

Also, bugs outside the Cathedral are interesting, and I’m glad I noticed them.


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