“Think big,” they told us. “The bigger, the better,” they said. “See the big picture,” they advised. Well, maybe…
But we all know better. That big picture they would have us see is made up of a million little pixels. Glory is in the details.
I’m certain this is not news—fake or otherwise—to any of you. The sums of our lives are the minute-by-minute totals of our daily routines. The details matter; they create depth, texture, color. They make us authentic. Unique. Even Ernest Hemingway, our safari guide to the art of living large and living macho, knew this: “Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguishes one man from another.” Hardly profound, Papa, just rarely observed.
It takes practice to appreciate detail. It’s so easy to gloss over things (I know because I do it all the time), but if we can just slow down for a moment and take that (dare I say it?) big, deep breath, we might actually smell all the aromas in that crimson rose that hangs over my neighbor’s white picket fence. Forget the forest, forget the trees; look for the vein pattern in each leaf and you just might find the secret to curing cancer.
But there is also a curse to living in the zone of detail. My wife’s palate is absurdly sophisticated. Her taste buds are always on high alert; I can’t slip anything by her. Who knew that ketchup can only made by Herr Heinz or that mayonnaise must only come in a Hellman’s jar? Don’t even think about substituting a pat of margarine for butter, or adding even a pinch of tarragon to the spice mix. She may be a good Catholic girl, but her salt better be kosher. The other day I made a vinaigrette salad dressing and added the tiniest drop of honey mustard to the recipe. A touch of sweetness, or so I thought. She tasted, sniffed, and put down her fork. “Did you put honey mustard in this?” she asked. “No,” I lied. “Don’t you like it?” “No (pause), it’s fine. It’s just a little sweeter than usual.” She proceeded to eat the salad—most of it, anyway.
But I won’t be deterred. I’ll still practice the ancient alchemy of distilling the water of my life from the purest of streams, using only the finest barley. I’ll toast the mash over a fire with just a hint of peat and age it in oak casks finished with rum and port. I’ll call the finished product whisky—no “e.” I am, after all, a Scot!
And if, by chance, I take a wee dram or two of my elixir and begin to see this seemingly drab, grey world through rose-colored spectacles, I’ll try to savor each precious moment as if it were my last, which (God forbid!) it won’t be because after all is said and done…
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was published in May 2017; a second volume of Musings entitled “I’ll Be Right Back” was released in June 2018. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com