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I don’t have photographs of any of the most beautiful moments of my life. At the time, I either didn’t have a camera or didn’t believe I should take a photo of that moment or both. Now all I have are beautiful memories, beautiful photographs in my head of you looking at sunlight reflecting off a lake or you laughing at me or her and him and me creating a semi-circle of friendship in the middle of a smattering of drunk people at a party. Sometimes I wish I had pictures of those moments. Sometimes I understand why other people want to take pictures of everything, every moment. But there’s only so much storage space on an SD card, only so much room on the walls of your home or bedroom or staircase to hang photographs. Memories blur and fade but they can still be much more powerful than any attempt a camera or photographer can make at recording a moment in time.

And maybe in a year I won’t remember what it was like to watch you watch the sunrise. Maybe I’ll forget what my feet looked like and felt like covered in dirt and sand from Lake Huron after a long day of shoe-less trekking. I’ll forget, and you’ll forget, and my children or great-grandchildren will never see the photograph that I hung only on the walls of my mind.

But so many other moments have been forgotten. Cemeteries are full of those who watched the sun rise and set over the centuries; full of people who didn’t feel the need to snap a picture or open Instagram to capture something they felt was beautiful or important. They just lived it, just watched, just appreciated the moment and let it slip, keeping that photograph in their mind until another moment took its place.

In our hectic, ever-changing, let-me-check-my-calendar lives, it’s easy to forget what’s around us. Literally around us. Like, the tree next to your driveway, or the elementary school in your neighborhood, or the cat across the street that always watches you when you go to check your mail. And it’s no surprise that we do this. Everyday things don’t matter so much when they’re always there, and you’re always running around them trying to get those calendar tasks completed — swerving your car to miss hitting the cat, stopping for those pesky elementary school busses, etc. Slowing down is not usually in our schedules. But today, it was in mine.

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Today I went somewhere in my city that I’ve never been before. You could call it exploration, and maybe it was, but this was different. As part of a community design workshop, I was told to go observe. To sit, quietly, and listen, and watch. To look at a place of my own choosing and think deeply about it. To really look at it. To examine my surroundings.

I was at a local park, one that is mostly abandoned and overgrown. The spot I chose was close to a former golf course, near the club house. I sat down near the building on a cement staircase, put away my cell phone, and took out a scrap of paper. I listened. I heard, first, the sound the branches of a nearby tree made in the wind. I heard birds chirping, and cars passing by on a nearby road. I looked at the shadows the trees made, and compared those to the shadows made by the handrails of the staircase.

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DSCN3541I watched the journey of an ant across the step I was sitting on, and drew an ant on my scrap of paper. I looked at the boarded up building and thought about how I, sitting on this staircase built into the side of a hill, was looking at a small example of humanity. I could hear the buzz from one of the still-functioning security lights on the building, and when I walked over for a closer look, the sound from the light drowned out everything else.

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I then made my way to the golf course itself, tramping through long tangled grass and pits of dandelions. Observing was different while moving, I found, but wandering through such a strange place and really looking at it still made quite an impact.

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I also remember looking at the trees — how they had been, many years before, placed with golfers in mind. Today, they stand awkwardly apart; the maples and the cherry trees natural decorations of the past.

The last thing I spotted before heading back to the workshop group was a sign, placed far out into the wild, overgrown, dandelion plantation. Plodding out past the decorative trees, I came to the sign for hole 2. The painted map, faded and peeling from the weather, showed what the space use to look like.

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Stumbling over more dandelions, I made my way out of the golf course, past the buzzing security light, and up the cement stairs. Only it wasn’t just an overgrown golf course anymore. It wasn’t just another park. It was different. I understood it a little bit better than I had before. I had given 30 minutes to this place and had taken away a greater understanding of not only that ant on the step, or that annoying light, but also about interaction with space in general, and how people tend to move through their lives without really looking.

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Did you ask her, too? Did you go up to random people on the street and ask them to save you? Did she say no? Did they shake their heads or hand you small bills, hoping either way that you’d leave them be?

I can’t picture what the view must be like from inside your head. Usually I’m good at doing that. It all just looks blurry and gray from over here. Maybe that’s what you’re seeing.

I don’t know what to think anymore. Maybe we all just need a break. All of us. If we all agree to wait a day, to skip one 24-hour section, and just sleep, or do something nice, would that fix it? Call it a cease-fire of life.

What do you think? That’s all I really want to ask you. That’s all that really matters, isn’t it? No, I don’t really think that. I don’t even agree with you. I just shake my head and wish you’d leave me be.

We’re all just floating on by, down the river. There’s a waterfall at the end, just like in all the dramatic movies you’ve ever seen with a river in them. We’re all going to fall, one day. Maybe more than once. Maybe at the end it will feel like falling.

I wish somebody would save me. I’m really not all that brave or sure of anything. I act like it, though. I’m afraid to be afraid. I won’t be. I’d rather be able to do it on my own. That’s what I’ve been trying to do ever since you left me; even before I met you. It’s a process, it’s a journey down this river.

I want to save you, I do. But I don’t even know what that means. And I don’t know you. And I don’t know if you want to be saved. Doesn’t everyone? That waterfall is coming but we’d all rather be with other people when the boat goes down. No one really wants to be alone.

I smile when I don’t know what to say, and I think you understand me. Our eyes are dancing across the tabletop, never meeting. I stare at you as your gaze is focused towards the window, people watching. I look, too. I wonder if we see the same things. Outside, an old woman in a long black coat is smoking her cigarette. She bends down and snuffs it out underneath her shoe. She’s standing right next to one of those cigarette bins. I look back at you so I don’t see what she does next, if she leaves the cig there or if she takes care of it. You still don’t look at me. I tell you about my day, about my week. You listen. I look away while speaking, to see if you look at me. You do, but not for long enough. Not in a way that makes me think you like me back. Then you look away again and I’m back to staring at your brown eyes. They look happy. They smile when you do, when you don’t know what to say to me. I look through the window again. The woman is still standing there. I wonder if she’s waiting for a bus. There’s no bus stop there. I wonder what she’s waiting for. It’s cold outside. Her coat is long and dark, like Winter. I look back at you and think that it’s going to be a long and dark Winter again.