My perception is that 2017 has not been a very good year for noticing. And by ‘not been a very good year’ I mean that I haven’t been very good at it. And by ‘noticing’ I mean that sharp, intense, take-your-breath away sort of awareness, of feeling very much present, of having a sense of the substance and nature of a thing. I’ve written very little poetry this year, and that seems like evidence of my not having noticed very much.

Why might that be? It might partly be because the camera on my phone has got all fuzzed up (Friday afternoon wasn’t nearly as hazy as the picture at the top of this post suggests), and so I’ve stopped looking for things that might make good photos, and so I’ve stopped looking.

It might be that I’ve been forgetting to look.

It might be that I’ve been looking in the wrong places. It might be that looking is the wrong verb. It might be that I need to listen, smell, touch or taste instead.

It might be that what ‘noticing’ means for me now is different from what it meant three years ago – although two striking sunsets (or, more to the point, my reaction to them) suggest that this isn’t necessarily the case.

It might be that most of my noticing happens on the train (the early morning sunset on the Hertfordshire hills is simply glorious) and so I can’t just stand and look at it; I’ve usually been whisked onwards.

It might be that things are generally better for me than they have been in previous years, so I haven’t been noticing my own noticing.

It might be that previous years’ noticings, being the most memorable parts of those years, stick out more and run together until I half-persuade myself that 2014, for example, was a golden succession of constant awareness of the glories of the universe, whereas 2017, at this much closer distance, seems like a couple of interesting moments stuck together with tedium.

All those explanations seem plausible. I don’t know which of them are true, and maybe I never will. And you know, even noticing that I don’t think that I’ve been noticing is in itself noticing, so perhaps I’m not doing as badly as all that.

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