Have you ever been haunted by a conversation you had, years before?
I’ve never forgotten a story a friend told me, and I thought of the story recently. I was at the apartment of some friends for a dinner party. On a table stood a beautiful, tight bouquet of pink peonies, under a golden light. I stood transfixed in front of those flowers for a very long time—until it occurred to me that my behavior might seem a bit odd to the other people at the party.
I just couldn’t tear my eyes away. And I think the reason for the intensity of my looking came from the fact that I’m working on a book about the five senses. Because I’ve been thinking so much about each of the five senses (we actually have more than five senses, so we could call the five senses the “kindergarten” senses, or the “Aristotelian” senses), I’m much more aware of what I’m experiencing.
And this reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend, a long time ago.
She’s a successful working artist now, as a photographer, and she was telling me about her experiences in the early part of her career.
She told me, “When I first lived in New York, I supported myself by working as a receptionist in an art gallery. Finally I got to the point where I could support myself as an artist, so I quit, and an older artist told me, ‘Ah, now you’ll be working all the time.’”
“Meaning what?” I asked.
“Meaning that there was no dead zone when I didn’t have to pay attention. And it’s true. I’m constantly asking myself, ‘Why do I like those twinkle lights?’ ‘Why is that drugstore display so pleasing?’ I’m always noticing.”
For her, and for me, it was pleasure, and also effort. I also remembered what she said when I walked into a little bakery with Jamie the other day. I noticed the smell so intensely!
Now I’m working all the time.