Who needs a shovel?

Today I am thinking back to college, to an archaeology class I took. Our final assignment was to treat a dorm room the same way an archaeologist would treat a dig site. We had to grid the room in squares, and list every object in each square, describing its details. This came to mind because I noticed a little sign on a business I walk past every day. It said: “Are you ready for Spring?” I am, little sign, I am. I knew the answer to the question but I wasn’t sure how long the sign has been there. What else haven’t I noticed?


I’m planning to spend some time this weekend exploring my neighborhood. I think I’ll start with the area right in front of my apartment building. I’d like to try to catch a glimpse of those birds that are right outside my window every morning. I want to know what they are. I know they sing sweetly, they are small, and there are a lot of them. If I stand still for a few moments I might just be able to see one in all its glory. I bet my cat could describe their every feather—he watches them all day long.

It’s harder to diagram a dynamic environment than a dorm room. Things in my neighborhood are moving all the time. The seagulls shift around, the beggars on the corners change spots. I can only see what’s there in the moment I look. That would still tell me a lot. That’s one of the reasons I like to draw. Drawing something forces me to consider all the specifics. I know how the African masks at the art museum are attached to the wearer’s head. I’ve had to sketch those details in. I know how the piano lid is hinged and the way that the marquee bends in front of the theater across the street. Once I’ve seen those details, I tend to remember them. This helps my writing, and it also helps me to understand my universe. I never know what will inspire me, and the more I look, the more I find. There are myriad treasures to unearth and it’s time to dig in.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

65. Explore a small area in detail. Try to catalogue it, to notice its every nuance. Did you learn something? Were you surprised in some way?

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