Lit Lesson #6: Pure Observations II

Another round of observations. Thank you Karen, Allan and Angela. The work this summer is to observe, not judge, evaluate, or connect dots. I’ve struck through anything that doesn’t fit the criteria, and I’ve also struck through unnecessary words to free you from the tyranny of complete sentences and last, I’ve added words (in brackets), or questions (also in brackets) to show how to streamline your observations.

Let’s see how it went!

Karen (Online Tues. Studio):

Place: Uptown B train. Silver colored walls, with two textures: one shiny, one dull. Poles that line up straight along the center aisle of the car, (more) as well as poles beside each door. There are eight doors in the car; four on the right side, four on the left. All of them with rectangular windows, longer on the sides. All of them slide open. It’s the only way they open. Black and white what speckled looks to be linoleum on the floor. Orange plastic feeling seats in threes looking (can a seat look?) toward the center aisle, in two facing the right or left. Each seat is separated not so much with a barrier as with beige demarcation. Large windows, three on the right, three on the left, two of which open from the top. The third has the destination “Bronx Bedford Park Blvd” and where the subway originated “Brighton Beach,” along with which subway it is, “B.” That’s on the top of the window.

All the seats are taken. Men – some in dress clothes, carrying briefcases; others in dungarees and tee shirts. There’s a man across from me in fade blue jeans, a brown long-sleeved pull-over, zipper in the front, white writing on the top left that I can’t read. He’s wearing a yellow baseball cap. Eyes closed, head back, arms crossed in front of him. Legs crossed at the ankles.

Allan (Tues Studio):

Place: An assortment of lizards (what kind? Curly tail? Green? Horn? See how each is so different) cross the dustless, broom colored path, but no rattlesnakes this time.  Fifteen hundred feet below, the navy blue river goosenecks through thickets of seaweed  green tinted pines.   But  here the spring flowers – reds, purples, pinks, blues, yellows – have all turned golden dry.  Directly above, the sun bleaches a powder blue sky.  Each step labored breathing pounds towards the crest above. Boots thud on a trail baked to concrete. Wind hums.  


Will you play catch with me later?

Sure, I’d like to do that.

How about when I’m  much older and I throw much harder?

Hmmm. That depends.  How much older?

Like when I’m 84.

Let’s think about that.  You’re five now.  That means I’ll be about 130 years old by then.


Well, I might need some help picking up the ball.

I’ll help you.

And I’m not sure I’ll be able to see where I’m throwing it.

That’s OK.  I just want to play catch with you.

OK.  It’s a deal.

Human: Wisps of long whitening hair sprout from the back of his balding head, covered in a thick charcoal gray sweatshirt on an 88 degree afternoon (his head is covered with a sweatshirt?), his left hand leans against the shopping cart (handle?) while he fishes a crumpled $50 bill out of his right front pocket of his dusted blue jeans. He switches his leaning hand to the right and digs in his pocket with his left hand for a handful of change. Readjusting his wire rims with (the) fist holding the change, he selects (cannot see “select”. Pick? Sorts? Fingers out?) a quarter, two dimes, two pennies and hands (cannot see “hands.” Passes, offers, lifts?) the $50.47 to the check out clerk. He returns (cannot see “returns.” Shoves, pushes, jostles?) the unneeded change to his left pocket.  When the clerk hands him back three dollar bills, he stuffs them into his right pocket. The clerk asks if he can use some help. He says no, but thank you.  Hunching over his grocery cart with both hands, he shuffles towards the exit door. 

Angela (Thurs AM Studio)

Person: Her wire-like straight hair is piled on top of her head, a shiny plastic clip holding it in place. Jade lace peeks (can lace peek? And have we heard that term a few times? I’ve included the core word from Visual Thesaurus, to the left. Ask yourself if that is the right word. Is the goal to have the lace active in this way, does it glint? Glance? Peep? Or is there a better root word, like “show,” that leads to appear, that leads to come out, that leads to something, anything that is more unique and descriptive of the action of that lace. Does it dust the edge of her neck line?) out from under her silky black top that goes the length of her arms. The top button left undone. Her skin is more tan than the other Vietnamese women mulling about. Hunched over she focuses on my feet, hairs escape the clip pointing in every direction. Legs wide, a white towel lays across her knees. The tan flesh almost showing through her black leggings. Pale pink lips pressed together at the bottom of her heart shaped face. Pristine completion, disney princess nose, little ears. She speaks better English than the others.

Place: Warm (river) breeze from the river carries, the sound of an accelerating motor boat (can a river carry? What is the actual sound). Birds exchange songs under the Oak trees that block most of the sun. Heavy wood arms (branches like arms?) thick with leaves and cracking bark reach into the clouds. (Can branches reach into clouds? Perhaps they reach, like arms, toward sky?).  Splashes of sun, that make it through (branches), light up the overgrown grasses below that dance (sway, undulate?) in the moving air. (breeze?) Green below, above, and around bright with the growth of spring. Barely visible bugs, little dots of faded brown, swirl above the grass.

Well done you guys! Keep observing, keep writing it down, keep searching for ways to see that are totally unique!


Comments 2

  1. I have a question Jennifer. You say you can’t see ‘hands’ in ‘he hands the money over’ but I can. I don’t really see the difference between hands and offers? Of course ‘hands’ isn’t a verb but in our language we use it as one all the time. I can get that it is generic but I’m having trouble with not using words like that. Such as the breeze carries. Breeze can carry a sent, sound no? It’s a challenge creating active descriptions that I would think some of these words can be used in a non-traditional sense.

    1. Post

      Pointing out or deleting the tried and true (cliche) phrasing asks the writer to “think” a little harder for the fresh observation. If you are absolutely devoted to the descriptive language you’re using, then please just carry on in that direction. These are “nudges” to change habits of mind, habits of language. : – )

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