The art of seeing has to be learned, Alexandra Horowitz tells us in her book, ‘On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes.’
The book is a record of her walks around a city block with eleven different “experts” — from an artist to a geologist to a dog. It is an examination of really seeing that blends “the mindfulness of Sherlock Holmes with the expansive sensitivity of Thoreau”, as one commentator says.
Another for the To-Read Bookcase (a To-Read Shelf is no longer enough).
31 Day Blog Challenge, #2
I have seen versions of the 31 Day Blog Challenge that I am embarking on. Today’s entry is number two in this variation that you can see below.
20 FACTS ABOUT ME
* I’m a Real Redhead. Or I was, before I started turning silver at age 17, and was pretty much completely so by 26/27 – at which point I Hit The Bottle for a few years and was an Almost Real Redhead for a while before I just threw up my hands and said, dammit, done now, if my hair is supposed to be white then let it be…
* I’m an addict, yay verily, and I know for a fact that I am because once an accidental caffeine cold-turkey withdrawal had… interesting consequences. Just let there be coffee somewhere near me and all will be well.
* I sometimes serial-dream – stop at some point in a dream on Night One and just pick up where I left off on Night Two. This can occasionally be disconcerting.
* I turn into a banshee hag if I see anyone mistreating an animal. Not on MY watch.
* I learned how to ice skate by literally being pushed into the middle of the ice and basically told to skate my way home. The ironic thing is that I can stay perfectly upright on a single blade of steel on ice – but those old-fashioned rollerskates with four wheels at each corner of the foot defeat me completely and I still have memories of hanging on to a tree for my life with my roller-skated legs splayed at an awkward angle and completely unable to get my feet under me…
* I once breathed in pure chlorine. It was a lab accident during a sixth-form chemistry experiment and it was never meant to happen – but I was at precisely the wrong place at the wrong time and I got a snotful of it. For a week afterwards, everything tasted like it had been boiled in pool water.
* I didn’t know what was in Irish Coffee when I had my first one… so I had three. In quick succession. The friends who were with me and who DID know, gleefully did not share this important information until AFTER I started wondering why I was suddenly feeling so very very happy about the world.
* I can do fine embroidery, I can do tapestry, I can do fillet crochet… but ask me to sew something practical and I go splat. I’ve never mastered the intricacies of a set-in sleeve.
* I did fencing at University – and kept on getting told to quit doing moves because “we haven’t taught you that yet”. Well, dammit, someone was coming at me with a pointed stick and I parried instinctively thank you ever so. I don’t care what you “taught” me or were going to – this was pure self-defense. I *might* have been Inigo Montoya in a past life. Who knows.
* Wasps scare the living daylights out of me (I’m allergic, and swell up like a balloon…)
* I love snow. Once, when we went back to the Northern Hemisphere in the proper season from Africa (where we were living at the time) we were hit by a proper whiteout blizzard that brought visibility down to nearly zero. Most normal people hunkered down in their homes and waited for it to pass, but I went out instead, into the wild swirling white silence, and walked in it alone, and cried for joy.
* I touched tiles which were once on a gate on a temple in Babylon. They were in a museum, and this was before touching them became forbidden. It was electric – touching something that human hands had made TWO THOUSAND YEARS OR MORE BEFORE I WAS BORN.
* I cuddled a lion cub. They are vocal, their claws are sharp and black and long, but they are utter tawny teddy bears and it was amazing to hold one in my arms.
* I stayed on a runaway galloping horse on what was pretty nearly my first EVER ride. My entire riding lesson beforehand consisted of “Grip tight with your knees, and whatever you do don’t let go of the reins.” I did these things, while also shouting “WHOOOOOAAAAA!” (well that works in the movies) and by the time the horse decided of its own volition to slow down I was still somehow on it. I think both it and I were astonished by this.
* My auntie made the grievous error of taking me to see “Jaws” just before the family seaside vacation when I was a kid. Now here’s the thing – there ARE no sharks in the Adriatic Sea. But such was the impact of that movie on my young mind that I pretty much cleared the beach with my shrieks when I felt something wrap around my leg. It turned out to be a piece of seaweed, which made me feel pretty silly by the time I scrambled back to shore. But hey. I was young and impressionable.
* I always win the Scrabble games I play with my husband. It isn’t his fault. I know a lot of medieval words he sometimes doesn’t believe are real. They are. They count.
* I shook Peter O’Toole’s hand once, at a book signing for his autobiography in full sight of a queue of other people waiting their turn. Never did I feel the weight of so many eyes on me as I walked away, and the miasma of “what did she DO? and can I do the same thing?” was almost visible.
* There are a number of musicals of which I know pretty much every single song (and much of the dialogue besides). Someday I may want that part of my brain back.
* When I was little and learning my multiplication tables there was one particular bit of it – 7X8 – that I could not for the LIFE of me remember. Every time we came to that, when my parents were quizzing me, I would stumble and blank out. This problem was solved permanently and forever when this particular value was tagged with “The One You Don’t Know”. The minute they specified that the answer they wanted was “the one I didn’t know”… I knew it immediately. Go figure THAT one out.
* I miss old-fashioned trains. We used to travel in sleeper cars, and I would have my ear down on my thin pillow on the sleeper car bunk bed, and somewhere underneath me the steel wheels were turning turning turning on the rails… kadamkaDAMkadamkaDAMkadamKADAM… and it would send me off to sleep, into dreams full of strange places and interesting people and fascinating stories.
22 Chinese Signs That Got Seriously Lost In Translation
What they meant to say: Nothing that has value in the world can be had without effort.