Pay attention to the quietly splendid

Here is the news: calamity abounds. Also there is footage of the calamity and will be repeated at half hour intervals with lots of urgent text scrolling across it about other things, which are also very urgent and awful and which require your attention immediately. 

This is a Public Service Announcement: there are some other things are pretty excellent. Usually nobody thinks to film them or  tweet them but that doesn’t make them any less spectacular. Maybe it makes them more spectacular. Maybe the act of noticing the small and magnificent things is an act of rebellion in a media saturated world. Be rebellious. Have a look around. Notice the things that aren’t urgent. Pay attention to the quietly splendid. Break away from the dominant narrative and choose your own adventure.

Notice the people in parks on early mornings sailing about on ride-on mowers, cutting the lawns as they motor around in their chunky headphones and high viz jackets. Watch the methodology - are they working in spirals? Two sets of squares? Do they need to lean back and check every now and then - ”did I miss a bit?“ Do they kind of enjoy leaning into the corners? Wouldn’t you? Leaping off at the end like a kid at the end of a fair ground ride looks fun. Not enough leaping in most workplaces.

Parks usually have someone interesting in them. Find the interesting. Elderly people doing martial arts. A young couple having an argument. Last time I was in a park, the interesting people were the people in paramedic uniforms engaged in a fully fledged frisbee session just near their ambulance, which was parked with the back doors open in what was not, technically, a car park. Notice the interesting people. 

Warm jumpers are great. Like a soft cuddle you can carry in your bag.

Stifled giggling. What a gift. What a glorious combination of emotions. What a perfect human response. Google “newsreader loses it” and have a cup of tea.

A well-timed, perfectly cooked toasted cheese sandwich can actually be so good as to make grown adult humans weep. This is a clinical fact based on years of scientific research involving volunteers (or, a volunteer, to be more accurate. Or to be even more accurate: me).

Nude gumtrees that have wrinkles are lovely.

And there’s nothing like the ground beneath a forest of eucalyptus trees - a carpet of curly gum leaves, especially delightful after a bit of light rain. Bit slippery. Blinking. Shiny. Smelling like a bush dance in a thunderstorm.    

Hot drinks are nice. Who thought of that?

How excellent that some people, usually older people, pre-empt gorgeous little proposals with the words “Now then”. For example, “Now then, how about a cup of tea?” or “Now then, your grandfather and I got you a little something”. Now then. A phrase that adds nothing, in terms of meaning, but both lends a formality to the occasion while simultaneously insisting that we don’t make a big fuss and we just get on with things for heaven’s sake.

Hooray for the little things that probably weren’t designed that way for the reason you enjoy them. The accidental design perks. On the driver’s side in my car, the dashboard has a little verandah that almost touches my steering wheel. It juts out over the dials and the petrol tank light and stuff. There is no outwardly obvious reason for the little dashboard verandah and it isn’t on the passenger’s side, which is flat and rounded, possibly for putting your bare feet on during summer road trips. So the question is: was the dashboard verandah designed for the purpose of providing the driver (me) with a little finger-drumming platform? Did they know I would be playing pretend piano on it while waiting at the lights? I doubt they did. But good on them anyway. Good on the people who laid the tiles in the laundry that you like the feel of through your socks. Good on the people who design the little paper sugar tubes that kids like to shake in cafes. Good on the people who put the window in the exact spot in the bathroom that the moon goes right into the centre of it when it’s orange and swollen and you’re brushing your teeth and letting your day drop from your shoulders. Here’s to accidental lovely design.

Here’s to the small things you don’t see on the news. And here’s to you, rebelling against the urgent. This has been a Public Service Announcement.

This column originally appeared in The Big Issue Australia, which supports vendors to make their own money. Please buy one when you get a chance.