Between Clutter and Beauty

A writing “prompt” in an online writing course challenged interested parties “to run outside and take a picture of the first thing they saw.” Then we were to run back inside and take a picture of the second thing we saw. Of course, the final instruction was to write about the relationship between the two objects, scenes, whatever. So, here we are, and I’d be interested in what you think.

I had a threefold in participating in this little exercise. First, my education, from childhood to today, involved practicing situational awareness. Being aware of my surroundings was important as a teenage outdoorsman, a police officer with tactical training, and an investigator and security expert.

Second, I have lived in the same house in the same neighborhood for two decades. I don’t know where every blade of grass is or where all the bird nests. Still, I am very familiar with my surroundings.

Finally, I have a difficult time following prompts of this nature unless I can find a good reason for them. Still, I found value in most other prompts, so I gave it a try.

It is impossible to be surprised “running” out the back of our house unless you are blindfolded. Of course, running blindfolded would be extremely unwise. The back of the downstairs living area is all windows. I could see most of the outside before stepping out the door. I could see the flower pots, the shrubs, the patio, the porch, the outdoor furniture, the unkempt area of our neighbor’s yard, my flag pole, etc., before I could take a step.

Open for full effect.

One of our resident cardinals did jump out of a large shrub and fly into the brush next door. That was nothing noteworthy, but it did lead me to notice a huge spider web, with spider, hanging over part of the patio. Aha! Something new and noticeable.

Then I headed back into the house. Nothing jumped out at me, as noticeable until I took a breath and shifted gears. Then the refrigerator caught my attention. It is covered with mom and grandmom mementos. Voila! I had my two things.

I know. You’re wondering, what does a patio area with a spider web have to do with grandkid pictures, picture postcards, and the list of leftovers in the freezer. Just think about it for a moment before going on, given the title of the piece.

It is said, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you believe that to be true, you need to accept the idea that one can say the same thing about clutter. Let’s start with the spider web.

Is it beautiful, or is it clutter? To my wife, it is clutter, but to a photographer in the right setting, it can be a beautiful object for the camera lens. This particular web was nothing special unless you appreciate the raw beauty of nature and the idea that a spider web is a small, if common, miracle of sorts.

As for the refrigerator, I have the same question. My wife has filled the space in our home with things of beauty and interest. Other than the room I use as a home office, our place is warm, welcoming, and beautiful in most visitors’ eyes. However, at least one almost got herself booted the only time she visited.

Her first comment, other than hello, as she walked from the front door to the family room was, “You’ve got a lot going on here.” In case you don’t understand snide southern remarks, that is not a compliment. I do not know if she commented on the refrigerator or the wall of photos in the family room, but I can almost hear the “tsk, tsk” under her breath.

To us, the pictures on the wall and the mementos on the refrigerator are fun, beautiful reminders of family, trips, and visits. Others might see them as something akin to walking into the spider web on the patio.

© oneoldcop – 2021

About S. Eric Jackson

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1 Response to Between Clutter and Beauty

  1. Eric, I like this post, but as you say, one has to just go a do it to get any idea of what they are getting at. Being aware of ones surroundings is indeed something that should be encouraged, although if you watch most people, they miss an awful lot. Your background would have taught you to be observant and that helps. My wife and I go walking ever so often and it is usually in places were most don’t go. We find everything about it interesting, whether it be the trip there, walking around and observing nature at its best, watching how other people react to their surroundings and just generally soaking up the environment. It is both interesting, and at the same time, refreshing. Keep up the observations, one can learn a lot about what the world really amounts to, and what makes nature and us humans tick.
    Regards, Phil at

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