I had set up a weekly get together at a local establishment. I would arrive early, get a table, and while waiting for people, I would write. I often write while waiting, so that was nothing new. However, what I did with this particular time was just to begin things. Since I wasn’t working on a project, I used my senses and made notes of my surroundings. It’s quite the opposite meditation, where I’m asking the mind to quiet down, to follow the breath or a mantra. Here, I let my mind roam wildly and recorded what I saw, heard, smelled, and felt.
With pen in hand and spiral notebook open, my eyes roamed the interior as I waited until something was novel enough that they lingered on an object or person. There was a stack of ashtrays that a waitress had set down on a nearby table that were waiting to be taken outside to the smoking patio. As a single ashtray filled my vision. What I wrote was something like this:
Stained fingers, the stench of a three-pack-a-day smoker clinging to his flesh, snuffed out yet another stick that simultaneously brought calmness to his mind and anxiety to his bloodstream.
Snugly held in the divot of the mass-produced, plastic tray, a newly lit Marlboro smoldered, its cherry glowing a deep red in the darkened room, blue-gray smoke wafting steadily away from the white paper, pale ash beginning to collect underneath.
Four carats of white ice winked in the neon flash of the OPEN sign as an expensively manicured finger tapped the ash from the end of a Menthol, as she remembered the days when being caught smoking behind the barn in rural America was a punishable offense.
I also caught snippets of conversations or interviews on television, an exp