Little Things.

By Alison January 16, 2008 16 Comments 3 Min Read


After she’s gone to camp, in the early

evening I clear out our girl’s breakfast dishes

from the rosewood table and find a dinky

crystallised pool of maple syrup, the

grains standing there, round, in the night, I

rub it with my fingertip

as if I could read it, this raised dot of

amber sugar, and this time

when I think of my father, of the Vulcanblood-red

glass in his hand, or his black hair gleaming like a

broken open coal. I think I learned

to love the little things about him

because of all the big things

I could not love, no one could, it would be wrong to.

So when I fix on this image of resin,

or sweep together with the heel of my hand a

pile of my son’s sunburn peels like

insect wings, where I peeled his back the night before camp

I am doing something I learned early to do, I am

paying attention to small beauties,

whatever I have- as if it were a duty

to find things to love, to bind ourselves to this world.

Sharon Olds.

Once upon a time a friend of mine walked through my house and said, "Goodness Alison if only your housekeepers knew the truth about your house: cracked lino and Finn’s scribbles on the wall…". Well yeeeees, I thought, looking at her in mild astonishment and wondering if I have rendered myself oblivious to ugly truths and taught myself only to see what is lovely? 

I have long considered this a gift: to be able to see only good. To forgive ugliness and ill-treatment. To ignore the hole in the lino, because there is nothing to be done about it until I’m slightly richer than I am right now and smile instead at the pile of vintage cookbooks I refer to on a daily basis. I do it with everything you see. Sometimes to my detriment. I look at my thighs and think hell’s bell, the universe hasn’t been kind there lady, but heck thats  a cleavage and a half you’ve got going on there Missus! I forgive abysmal behaviour in men who are clearly drunk. Or bonkers. Or both. And think instead well yes, he’s a hopeless cause but heavens a girl could drown in those blue eyes! I dim the lights and pretend theres no such thing as dust, forgive Finn just about anything cos he’s got such delicious curly hair and do nothing at all about the size of my bum because I have decided I am Rubenesque and the rest of the world is just gonna have to deal with both that and the fact that the slates on my roof are in a sorry state, but that wreath on my front door is a joy to behold in every passing heart.

I am foolish. And proud. And yet part of me suspects that this is my problem. That life would be easier, happier, no scrap that, just easier, if I weren’t so very stubborn about seeing only the little things and forgetting the bigger picture. That there is a tomorrow after today and my word wouldn’t life be fine and dandy if I could be the kinda woman with a five year plan and a careless disregard for the miniscule detail that makes my heart sing on a daily basis…?


  1. gena says:

    Oh I do not think you foolish at all! how dull would life be if we only focused on the bigger picture? its the little things that stay with us and provide our children with real lasting memories,like you there are a things that need done in my home yet i can thrill myself time and time again with an old copy of woman and home, or a silly piece of frippery from a charity shop, its who we are Alison! xx

  2. Mary Ellen says:

    I feel you are directing your energy in the right direction. Your little boy won’t remember that the floor is imperfect, but the security and love he feels will echo through the coming generations.

  3. Sandy says:

    Keep seeing things as darling as you do, dear Alison. The problem in this world isn’t too many who see the good and the grand. The problem is too few… who do.

  4. Susannah says:

    No, Alison, not foolish at all. Seeing the good shows wisdom, and leads to a happier life.
    Please keep seeing the flowers, and forget the lino, or, consider the cracks as adding character!

  5. Ali says:

    A five year plan? I do well to think ahead to the next weekend. Besides, as sure as the sun rises and sets, any plans I make are sure to change. Your not missing a thing!

  6. Veronica says:

    But…. don’t you think the fact that “little things” ..or a bit of humour… or indulging in some form of fantasy can get us through some pretty dark times is nothing less than amazing?
    My Mom was our special light during our darkest years as kids in a very bad and violent situation…….

  7. Oh, I like to have my five year plan, and then I can casually disregard it and get on with the scrumptious little things! And I suspect my plan, of ‘being well read’ and ‘mix a great cocktail’ and ‘eat waffles up the eiffel tower while watching the sun set’ would not be the stuff that a life coach would think a five year plan should consist of!

  8. Oh, Alison – I got actual tears in my eyes reading this. My heart was shouting “NOOOOOOOOO! Dont’ stop seeing the little things!!”
    Ditto to what all the wise folks above said – I love Sharon Olds and I agree with Veronica, that the ability to concentrate on those “little things” is “nothing less than amazing” and probably did alot for many of us!!
    And, well – about the drunk/bonkers men…there is something to drowning in those blue eyes (for awhile)..and then there’s that wise part of you (there is SO much wisdom in your posts!) that probably won’t settle for drowning – sounds like you were made to FLY.

  9. Anita says:

    I find that IS my five year plan… To concentrate on the little things, and on doing the ‘next thing’, and in five years looking back on how far I’ve come…
    You, dear Alison, are the one who keeps us all seeing the important things…

  10. Amy says:

    Sounds to me that the blemishes in your house and pretty much like mine too. People aren’t interested in how perfectly you live, they’re interested in the atmosphere and the people that live there 🙂
    It’s nice to know you’re real like the rest of us…

  11. Colleen says:

    Careless disregard for what makes your heart sing and concentrating on a five year plan would not make your life easier, only more frantic as years tick by. A singing heart will make the plan reasonable, possibly even attainable, and, indeed, much happier! Isn't "living in the moment" what we all wish we could do?!

  12. Anna Marie says:

    Alison…you are practicing what the calls mindfulness, and being mindful is the way to enlightenment. Seeing the beauty in small things is the way to the divine, but I think you know that really. Don't you change a thing!
    Anna Marie

  13. Lorelei says:

    This has to be one of my all time favourite posts Alison.:0)

  14. What is the point of having a planned tomorrow, if you are not enjoying today? You have affirmed my resolution to just smile more often, and find pleasure in little things. And I agree that Finn will remember joyful memories more than roof tiles and floor coverings.

  15. Leigh Ann says:

    Please don't ever change. It is a gift.

  16. Polly says:

    I get a bit giggly at the sight of my old pink stove.. and a bit flustered by my soot-covered fingers from ignighting the pilot light. Hubby says, “There’s a perfectly good, brand new stove in the basement. Why don’t we use that one?” Because I like being giggly over the lovely! Blessings… Polly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to content