Think Small is My New Hobby

This week’s invitation is to notice small . . . then notice smaller. The invitation reminded me of a favorite quote:

from And the Pursuit of Happiness by Maira Kalman

There is comfort in “thinking small.” I first came across this quote while I was reading Kalman’s book to distract myself as I waited for my dad to make it through heart surgery. It was a good fit at that moment in time. Now, every time I read these lines, I am transported back to the seventh floor Sky Lobby at the University of Chicago Center for Care and Discovery. Throughout my dad’s cancer treatment and his subsequent medical care, I became closely acquainted with the space.

I can close my eyes and see the smooth stones placed side by side, like a natural puzzle, lining the short expanse of rooftop just outside the wall of windows giving a view of the city. I don’t carry an image of that city view inside me–just the casual order of the matte stone rooftop surface. There was so much to admire in the long shot–all that thriving greenery makes for a friendly introduction to the strong and solid skyscrapers in the distance. But I remember focusing on those stones between page turns.

My view from the seventh floor Sky Lobby at the University of Chicago Center for Care and Discovery

You see, thinking small is not something I have to work at. It is kind of how I move through life. Thinking small is like a default setting I use to reset.

So, it is no surprise that I have taken up a new hobby that involves noticing the small things–I have been staging Instagram photos of the books I read (you can see the fruits of my new hobby by clicking on the READ tab at the top of the page, or heading to my instagram @rushreads).

Even though thinking small often comes naturally to me, there always new things to see. Knowing I am going to create a vignette to showcase the book at the end means I read with a slightly different lens. I notice and hold onto details that might not otherwise call for my attention.

For instance, when reading Christina Soontornvat’s amazing book A Wish in the Dark, I might not have taken notice of the pattern of sensory images related to fruits if I wasn’t looking for concrete objects I might be able to pull from the story for the photo. Although I did not end up using fruit at all in the final image, my reading experience was much richer for having noticed. I can still see the joy on the faces of Pong and Somkit when they hear the sound the mango makes as it pops away from the tree before falling into Pong’s hands.

In turn, I may not have noticed that the poplar aspen trees in our backyard make a similar popping sound as they release dangling seed pods from their grasp.

from a distance the dangling seed pods look like leaves

Because of my attention to concrete sensory images, I can still clearly imagine the tangerine smell that always signaled Ampai’s presence to Pong. Thinking of that tangerine while Soontornvat’s story lingered in my heart, I spent just a few seconds more lingering over the scent while I squeezed lime juice into my latest batch of guacamole. I breathed more deeply and noticed the separate fragrances of fresh cilantro and citrus.

For now, whether reading or walking through the world, thinking small is my new hobby. It helps me handle the complicated too-muchness of it all.

9 thoughts on “Think Small is My New Hobby

  1. Your writing never fails to touch me with your insight and what you notice. You pay attention. The small things illuminate the big things and makes them comprehensible. When I go along on your journeys, you may be noticing a detail (the small) but for me it often puts the big things into sharper focus!

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  2. Your story about your time in the hospital with your dad, stopped me in my reading and took me right back to the hospital with my dad. All the small details… thanks for sharing.

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  3. Hello! So nice to meet you through #sosmagic. Your words– the image of those smooth stones–is staying with me. So soothing during such a distressing time for you. Thank you for sharing.

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  4. I like the idea of thinking about small things being a default setting. Your attention to small things, especially in your book pictures, is a work of art and inspiration.

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  5. Thank you for the quote. Perfect for now. I have always admired the staged book insta photos. I had never thought how much thought goes behind it.

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  6. I love the quote! Adding it to my quarantine keepers file. So lovely to read your words again. I think it’s time for me to think small, only thinking small makes me think of my small boys who I miss so much. Sigh!
    I’m off to check out your READ tab.

    Liked by 1 person

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