9 Things I Can’t Look Away From

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons User Alex https://www.flickr.com/photos/14625546@N00/10223491246/in/photolist-gzq4Ls-dM1xaF-5xXrH-mxqr-8kbvg2-cMwprs-6agsMG-5fHRkH-r24CPZ-6N1D5g-Ag7mQJ-duf9G2-Q6Uthu-P3sHwb-AKjx2g-QjRap6-Q6UsAQ-P6ib7g-Q6UsTU-PKSXDb-QjS5mt-P6ibdi-adYijU-5ahUvi-riqSfm-9Xayo4-ybr7Q-7z5kpY-czxPd-58nbTY-cdJ6h-czx3o-A4YtET-buWfau-7HNGX-9UzEAW-7z1ys8-fnn1nr-dt1L34-7jmYSm-nirNe-5xxUFP-e1JK8J-8Af2d8-picTD9-8Ai7h9-cZ6P9f-fUgMpV-9YrYfC-eXiPp
  1. A boat or ship interrupting the smooth expanse of any horizon, the visual equivalent of a sharp grass seed caught in the weave of a wool sock right by the most sensitive part of your ankle, because you know, just as any three-year-old looking at a picture book knows, that a vessel out on the water is a story whose arc you simply have to follow.
  1. Stuff on the ground that looks like poo, even if it is poo.
  1. Containers going by on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, because for a while we lived by a harbor in Europe and would walk down to see the rainbow of colors being off-loaded from the ships in the same spectrum that we can see from our backyard here at home: Red Hamburg Süd. Orange Hapag-Lloyd. Yellow MSC. Green China Shipping. Blue Safmarine. And I’m still looking for a purple one.
  1. The musculature of anyone’€™s shoulders, because it is the seat of the hands and the miraculous things they do.
  1. Stray coins glinting from the pavement (even if these days we pay for more things with plastic), on account of how pennies, dimes, and quarters fit so familiarly against the skin of the hands that they might almost be our own native callouses, and then if you sometime spot a foreign coin lying about you pick it up and find its texture and heft so unfamiliar that it puts you in mind of that first flash and excitement of holding a once-stranger’™s hand.
  1. Dead things, especially when they show up in the yard as a reminder of the intricate and unexpected lives that exist all around in what has to us become the most ordinary of places, and we then have to stop the flow of the day and face the tough question of what is the proper and respectful disposal method for a mouse pecked to death by the chickens, a baby songbird fallen from its nest, a garter snake the cat caught and killed but declined to eat.
  1. A single star shining through low clouds or urban exhalations lit orange by the glow of streetlights—see entry about ship on horizon.
  1. Truly old people shriveled by time, because their wrinkles and stoops and age spots and unexpected levities bring the past directly to us and, we might hope, show us our future too.
  1. Birds, just because.


Photograph courtesy of Flickr.com/Alex.



Peter Friederici teaches journalism and science writing at Northern Arizona University. His most recent book is Nature’s Restoration: People and Places on the Front Lines of Conservation.


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