The details

Please tell me you do this, too.

Yesterday, I made granola for the first time. Three days ago, I’d made a careful list of all the ingredients (varieties of nuts, oats, spices, dried fruits, rice syrup, a jar of unsweetened apple sauce). Two days ago, I went to co-op and checked everything off my list, scooped the right amounts into bags at the bulk department, check check check. Got home. Unloaded the groceries. Where are the almonds I checked off my list? Do I remember even scooping them? Huh. Good thing I had extra bag in the pantry. Yesterday, I mixed the granola according to the very clear and simple recipe. I spread it out on trays, baked it in the oven. The house smelled gloriously of cinnamon and toasted oats. I took the trays out of the oven to let the granola cool. Then tasted it. Loved it. An hour later, I discovered the unopened jar of apple sauce on my counter: the ingredient I’d completely forgotten about when stepping my way carefully through the recipe two hours earlier. Sigh.

A week or so ago, a small package arrived in the mail: a book and two CDs from a friend who shares my taste in such things. Books, in particular. I can count on her to send me a book I’ve never heard of and end up adoring and sharing with everyone else. So this package arrives, and I put the book onto my to-be-read pile and the CDs next to the stereo. A couple days ago, H and I finally popped the CDs in to listen to while we did our various types of homework. We liked them both, but one, Deer Creek Canyon by Sera Cahoone really stood out. It took a few bars, maybe until the chorus of the first song, and then I fell for it. It was my type of music. It was so right, it sounded familiar. It was a teaspoon of Hem, mixed with a quarter cup of Cowboy Junkies, with maybe a splash of Aimee Mann and a sprinkle of Beth Orton in there, too. I wrote excitedly to my friend about the tracks I loved. When she wrote back, she reminded me that I was the one who had first told her about Sera at some point. Oh.

Nearly every day, I walk into a room intent on doing something and then forget why I was there. Most often, it goes like this: I need something in my office. On my way to the office, I notice an object on the counter that belongs in the basement, which is where my office lives. Why not be efficient and kill two birds, or something like that? I take the object to the basement to put it in its proper place, then get distracted by something (cat box needs scooping, water bowl needs filling, laundry needs folding, or any old thing). I attend to the distraction. At this point, there are two possible paths: a) either I get further distracted by another thing I noticed and continue the chain, or b), I go back upstairs, and then remember that original thing that had sent me to the basement in the first place: the envelope or whatever it was I needed from the office.

I’ve been known to go to the refrigerator and, by the time I’ve opened the door, to have forgotten what I was looking for.

I know you do this, too. You do, right? Maybe you could say you do, even if you don’t, just to make me feel better?

I might be frightened by these small confusions except that I think they’re fairly explainable. Too much going on, too many details I’m keeping in my head at one time, too many thing to distract me, and my sad-but-human attempt to try to hold too much at once in these few pounds of grey matter.

I know this explains most of it because when I’m quiet, when I’m still, when I’m calm, I notice a lot. In some ways, I notice more now than I did twenty years ago. I notice bird calls. I know when the woodpecker is at the feeder and when the chickadees are there, without having to look. I spot snakes trying to camouflage themselves in the fall leaves, and tiny green frogs hiding in the mud at the edge of the pond. I once thought of clouds as, well, clouds, but now I see their shapes and colors and moods and how they change, not just every day, but hour by hour and minute by minute. I notice when the quality of light coming through the window changes, even when I’m facing the other way. I know when the ingredients are just right—rain, sun, clouds, time of day—to produce a rainbow in our valley, and then it’s there just as I’d hoped.

Yesterday, on our walk, I saw a partridge in the pines. The dog, a bird dog, nose to the ground, missed it entirely.

A day is made up of thousands of details, and we all miss most of them because our thoughts and eyes are trained elsewhere. That’s okay. We can’t keep up with them all. The day is made up of thousands of details and you’ll notice some and I’ll notice some and many will go unnoticed, like that tree falling in the forest or that bird plummeting down from a limb. They don’t require our noticing to be.

And here’s another thing: whatever details I miss, I did see the partridge, that granola was delicious with my yogurt this morning, and I can’t stop tapping my toe to this song.


  1. Margaret says:

    Yes! Yes! Agree! Been there! LIFE!! Isn’t it WONDERFUL???

  2. Lee-Ann says:

    My dear sweet roomie: I totally understand the type of distraction you wrote about. I’ve done that for years! I find that writing a to-do list and constantly referring to it throughout the day helps me stay on task. I’ve gotten better at finishing one task and then walking to another room and attending to another. I really try to fight that urge to take a left and stray off course!

    You are far from alone. And you are the one who opened my ears to Gordon Lightfoot, among others. Where did all of those years go?


    1. Rebecca says:

      Oh, thank you, Lee-Ann! To-do lists help. Blinders would be good for me, too, I think… xo

  3. Di says:

    Oh, I definitely do that sort of thing, all the time! I think you’re right–too much going on, trying to keep up with it all. Lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed a lot. I commented to J this morning that I’d like to just go back to bed for the day. Not jut because I’m really tired, but because I crave the solitude.

    1. Rebecca says:

      I know what you mean. Quiet, calm, with no one/nothing asking for your attention all day long. Everyone needs a break from time to time. I hope you got/get yours!

  4. lolo says:

    I’ve now gone to the guest bedroom to get a sweater 3 times this morning and then gotten distracted by other things and left without it. Made me think of this post. Middle-aged brain strikes again!

    1. Rebecca says:

      I hear it only gets better 😉

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