Nothing There

My third grade teacher told me to take time to look around. He sug­gested we look at our shoes, at the edges of win­dows where the dust was thick, at the mid­dle of a blank wall. Just look, he said, because you never know. Some­thing in me clunked deep on that one. It felt like he was say­ing he agreed with some­thing that only I had ever thought of.

One of my favorite books grow­ing up was Sher­lock Holmes: the crim­i­nal found by the pat­tern of ash drop­pings from his cigar, etc. In med­i­cine, see­ing what is right in front of me and believ­ing it took years of prac­tice, but lis­ten­ing and look­ing (in that order) are by far the best tests avail­able to me and the most cost efficient.

I walked past this tan­gle and saw noth­ing and so I took a pic­ture to prove it.

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5 Responses to Nothing There

  1. i love that you remem­ber some­thing your third grade teacher said.…. i taught school for thirty four years.… for a while, every year, i started class by hav­ing all of the stu­dents walk to the win­dows and just silently look out­side at the busy philadel­phia street. a whole long mud­dle of them would line up by the open win­dow ( after all i taught in an urban school and class size was always thirty-plus and there was no air con­di­tion­ing in the swel­ter­ing sep­tem­ber heat.) we’d stay like that for a very long time.. twenty min­utes or more in silence… then i’d have them return to their seats still silent, and write what they had seen.… we would end that class just by read­ing aloud what each stu­dents had writ­ten. what always aston­ished all of us was how dif­fer­ent each descrip­tion of the same scene was — dif­fer­ent in what they saw, dif­fer­ent in how they wrote it — lists, songs, con­crete detailed descrip­tion, nar­ra­tives. some focused on sounds, some on col­ors and shaped, oth­ers on move­ment, some on objects, oth­ers on emo­tions of the passers-by. i love this piece. i love all of the many “noth­ings” each of us will see in your photograph.

    • stephenarcher says:

      That is a great story Mar­sha. Thank you. It spills over in to every­thing really. Two peo­ple look­ing right at each other, at their lives, think­ing they know what the other per­son must be see­ing. We don’t have a clue. We all make up our entire real­i­ties. It is fic­tion, all of it, which is fun really, and weird.

  2. Bobbi says:

    Costs noth­ing to lis­ten, so true…


  3. Barbara says:

    I gave a framed photo almost exactly like this, to my neigh­bor kid across the street (a 5), who loved it.
    His mother was amazed that I could know her kid would like this par­tic­u­lar photo. It would have taken too long to explain how I knew he would like it.….….

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