This month’s CLANGERS is N for Notice. Some people call it mindfulness, others a heightened appreciation, or simply having the time, but the accounts below show that both lockdown and later life can enrich our lives through noticing. Noticing is related to some of the other things in the CLANGERS list. By noticing you also connect; learning and noticing go hand in hand; and being active outdoors is a good time to notice our surroundings.
Many thanks to all those who contributed.
Sit up at the back!
When it comes to guns the trusty Mole Grip is a versatile source of audio sound effects.
When it comes to guns you know in real life, using one that sounds remotely like a Mole Grip is ultimately foolhardy.
In the movies nothing, not even the dialogue, is as it sounds. Not necessarily fake, it’s mostly added, “in post”. After the fact. When I began to believe I could be a sound designer I was in awe of my peers who could discern the faintest audio glitch. This is an essential, acquired skill. You know the feeling when the stylus would encounter a speck of dust on the vinyl and the click wrenched you from your musical realm? The movie glitch destroys your suspended disbelief.
When it comes to guns in films the click of the trigger, the fall of the hammer, the explosion and the sound of the open breach to the ring of the spent casing on the multi-storey concrete floor is artifice. But, it’s convincing.
The ability to hear those individual sounds and build them into a cohesive whole takes practice. As in everything, you must pay attention truly to appreciate what goes on around you.
Due to relaxed ‘rules’ my friend, Catriona, and I could go for a socially distanced walk along the Loch side. Our conversation comprised drawing attention to things we noticed. The Loch was high with little shore showing. It was calm but we noticed a single piece of wood floating some way out. The duck suddenly took its head out of the water and flew off.
We came to Water’s Edge Cottage,( a B&B) which I must have passed numerous times as in ‘driven’ by. It looked deserted but that was probably the effect of Covid restrictions. We stopped and wondered about its origins. I checked up later and it dates from 1820 . There are definite signs of it, perhaps, being originally two cottages as there was a definite line where stonework met brick. We heard a squeaky peep of a bird as it flew overhead. I saw a black and white bird with a red beak. Catriona saw an oyster catcher. Says a lot about the both of us.
My final ‘notice’ was the difference between the hills on the east side of the loch and the mountains on the north. I now know all about the fault line!
These days I don’t walk as far or as fast as I used to. And, even before lockdown restrictions, I’ve had to give up foreign travel. But, as one door closes, another opens. Having to slow down has opened one such door. My reduced pace gives me so much more time to look around, to enjoy the view, to closely examine an insect on a leaf, to appreciate the scent wafting from a bush and listen to the birdsong. Instead of hurrying past the wonders all around me, I notice and enjoy them. Yesterday on the beach I noticed the grain on an old wooden board, which made harmony with the rippled sand. Knots in the grain created the same kind of counter-flow in the pattern as boulders on the beach. The adventure is not in going to far places but in seeing with new eyes and awakening every sense to the million miracles a minute that, before, went unnoticed.
Their once familiar faces appear in the zoom squares as not quite themselves. My own small image shows me up: unkempt, exposed and weary in the unkind screenlight. Then I remember that this is not my private bathroom mirror, so I stop fussing. I sneak glances at me now and again, try to resist tucking the greying strands out of sight.
Our sister is cheerful as ever. She raises her glass, and we distance-toast her back. We exchange our lockdown news, comparing restrictions, frustrations, commiserations. But we guard against complaining, thinking ourselves grateful – after all, you know, it could be worse.
Something isn’t right.
The two of us chat away to fill her silences; stories of children who are really grownups, some returning to the empty nest, others far distant, only flying in on this zooming thing. As the youngest she’s used to listening, isn’t she? She rarely interrupts us in full flow.
But in a pause, she reaches for the half-empty bottle beside her, and we see that her eyes are puffy, her colour is high, her hair dirty. Before we can catch one another’s eye, the full glass is raised again.
Cheers, she says.
Noticing, an everyday bargain
Noticing on a daily basis?
Must be the surprising/unusual/challenging/phantasmagorical of life. Because we don’t notice the everyday, do we? The steam on windows when it’s cold outside. The face in the mirror, wondering whether it’s time for the hair dye, the dentist, the hairdresser. Oh, we notice all these things in these unusual times, when the everyday becomes stranger than ordinary life.
Today I noticed a clearance plant with a lengthy name, looking dead in its pot. Not dead, just pot-bound, and reduced by 75%. I noticed three other plants in my garden before completing the task of finding room for one, with space to grow. I think it will be happy there. Tomorrow I will notice the last of the daffodils, until next year. The weather? Hail/rain/sunshine in a day.
I’m a poet, so the ordinary is always surprising daily. Poems are about noticing; and then transforming. What do you notice – daily – with all senses?
As with the previous key words, this one can leave a contributor with an almost infinite choice of applications – “ Notice”: auditory, sensory, taste, smell, heat, cold, emotional, visual, and either positive (pleasurable) or negative (dislike or worse). At present we must try, as Bing Crosby so tunefully sang, “accentuate the Positive, eliminate the Negative” situations. I have chosen two examples of the visual application.
When I pass by an array of plants or blossoms backed by a ( preferably) dry stone wall, which in itself provides great pleasure, I cannot avoid Noticing the state of repair of the wall and wondering for how long it will continue to provide such additional pleasure to the view derived from the foreground.
Footpath signs, particularly those spotted during the course of a drive in unfamiliar territory, excite me greatly; to where will the path lead me, how long will it take to walk it, what will I discover during the walk, what is there to see and enjoy in its course, what will I find at the other end or will it be circular and return me to my starting point, or linear, and in the latter case how to achieve a way back? Of course, a large scale map, if available, reveals much information but also diminishes the sense of adventure which stems from exploring an unknown area.
So, there is much positive pleasure and knowledge to be derived from Noticing small commonplace objects which can easily be ignored.
Since the start of the lockdown, I have noticed a change in the pace of life. In general, people seem to have more time, there are less cars on the road, busses seem to be on time, and there is little evidence of people rushing about.
I have taken to go for regular long walks, and because there is no rush, I feel more relaxed. My normal route to Dumbarton Town Centre, takes me along the River Leven, and I’m in no hurry. As I stride along the towpath, I have time to take in the scenery; views of Ben Lomond, Carman Hill, Dumbarton Golf Course, and the river itself. But perhaps the greatest aspect of these walks, is my noticing the fauna and the wildlife. I often see swans, ducks, herons, and even the fish jump up to say hello. I have even spotted otters, but imagine my surprise when I spotted a seal swimming towards Balloch.
After such walks, I feel totally relaxed, my mind is alert, and I notice how slow my heartbeat is. And another positive from this regular exercise is that I notice the shedding of a few pounds, added during the lockdown.
This poem was written after a sparrowhawk took a greenfinch from the McKenzie’s birdfeeder.
Puir finch yer time wi us wis brief Tis true that death’s a random thief That like a bud new heezed in leaf Ye were pu’d early. That ye sae sune were brought tae grief Sair maks me ferlie. A breath ago a jaunty burst o colour Is now an ash o beak and feather And though we are baith foe and brither Twas necessary, For some are born tae flee the ither And some tae harry. It’s no for me anthropomorphic preacher Tae mourn the passin o a fellow creature And from my windae bay beseech her Tae spare her prey. Could she address this moral teacher, What wad she say? “Ye frae your windae stand and gawk, And censure me the hungry hawk, Yer weel swelled kyte a meenit’s walk Frae larder fu, While I for hours the burdies stalk Tae fill ma mou. “Sic sleekit cant frae human beast, Hypocrisy tae say the least, Wha staws his kyte in daily feast O tup and kye. While I wi hunger pangs increased Must vainly fly. “I watch ye frae the starry lift, And frae that hicht yer no great gift. Could I great nature’s riddle sift, You’d be the chaff. This humble hawk is better dicht Though ye may gaff. “So cease yer claivers chancy man And stick tae things ye understan. Think o your true state if ye can That it might free ye. For aw yer hairst o muckle scran Ah wouldna be ye.
Many thanks to all those who contributed.