Mary Cassell

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Here is my observational exercise:

Mary Cassell
EDA 6415
October 12, 2006
Observation Exercise

Living Room Coffee Table

A coffee table sits in the middle of my living room floor. It is light-colored, unfinished Mexican pinewood. Most of the surface is covered with memorabilia belonging to me: two antique, matching porcelain Chinese medallion pieces (one is an ashtray, one is an ornamental serving dish); a small cone-shaped seashell with a slip of paper on which is written, “God is listening before we speak;” a stack of two orchid books and four nature magazines; a second stack of books and magazines, containing subjects ranging from Pilates, to vegetarian meals, to a Hope College alumni directory; to a copy of Shel Silverstein’s book, The Giving Tree, a Florida Humanities Council magazine; four back issues of the Sierra Club magazine, and several different art exhibit pamphlets, mostly on the Florida Highwaymen. On top of the stack of books and magazines at “eight o’clock” is a former work associate’s Christmas gift to me: a handmade booklet of quotations and poems for peace that she personally selected.

Also on the table is a stack of four large-sized “coffee table” books: Salvador Dali, Paroles et Lumieres: Haiti, Local Heroes: Changing America, and The Descent of the Lwa. A Walgreens photo envelope containing negatives of a recent family reunion sits in the corner of the table at “four o’clock.” Also on the table is a small, green fabric-covered photo album of photos I recently found after four years, and had developed. A small, dark woven basket sits on another corner of the table, containing a “Pocket Guide to Indoor Plants,” and a TV cable directory. Last, but not least is a white plastic stick with a long strip of rabbit hide and fur on it—a cat toy that my brother brought me, to entertain the black pet cat that his ex-wife was allergic to, which my brother also presented me with that day.

I observe these objects arranged on my living room coffee table in the mid-afternoon light. For several minutes, I watch for changes in this sunbathed scene. Light slips through some of the vertical blind openings in the picture window, and comes to reflect off of the shiny covers of the books and magazines. The book and magazine jackets appear illuminated, taking on their own lively, lovely appearance. As the moments pass, the lighting on the books alters subtly before my eyes. Very subtly, as I concentrate on this phenomenon of natural light, I witness the dynamic interplay of nature upon everything inanimate and animate.

Critical Reflection:

As I concentrate and observe, I wonder with the interplay of light on the books, if the books are truly just inanimate, or are they actually animated now that nature’s sunlight has touched them? I begin to think about the matter and energy stored in the “inanimate”
books, thinking about the materials and natural elements from which they are made: water, sunlight, soil, nutrients from the earth, wood from trees.

Why wouldn’t the touch of sunrays ignite the book covers back to their former, animate existence? I feel like Socrates, one of the notable precursors of the Scientific Method, questioning the very nature of such preconceived beliefs. And I realize that scientists and trained observers alike wish to do exactly as I am doing when considering their variables and processes. They want to use this method of questioning upon the very foundations of their assumptions. To question is to begin to understand and to know.

So some questions I have are: Does natural sunlight in some way have the capability of animating an otherwise inanimate object? What changes in matter occur within the inanimate object once natural sunlight strikes it? Is it significant to change any physical aspect of the object? Can the object be completely transformed if intense heat is applied?

I notice how with the addition of light on the books that I feel happier, more alive myself. Questions arise for me. How does light affect human mood? What qualities of light induce feelings of happiness, joy and well-being? How can the qualities of natural sunlight be used to create a happy, healthy environment?
It seems that observing and concentrating on the subjects of our focus brings about many questions. It seems that it’s a natural human tendency to want to know and to understand.