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Perception, Memory, Attention, Habit

Three friends You stop smelling violets after a while; the receptors in your nose get tired.

Which makes me think about perception–the things we get tired of seeing and so ignore, or the things that numb us into acceptance. Sharp moments of recognition and absurdity that open doors, and how fleeting they are.

I’ve begun to be able to walk around the new house in the dark. It takes a while for proprioception to kick in, for me to relax into a new space. It used to be almost instantaneous, but living in the old house for a decade probably blunted that skill. Before then, I never stayed in any one place too long, so I had to learn it quickly and forget it just as quickly. Except one never really forgets, right?

Memory is a funny thing. There can be trauma-induced gaps side by side with vividly-recalled moments; a memory can come rushing at one like a hungry lion or creep up, softly, nosing about and ignoring you as you sit and wait. Sometimes, thinking about my childhood, an adult realization colors the memory in slightly less painful hues. It can’t draw the sting completely, but understanding things about the experience from an adult’s point of view mitigates.

Dogs are in the eternal now, but they paradoxically love habit and routine. Just like kids, they need to know that some things are the same. I vary our running routes, and Miss B is sometimes quite put out that I’ve decided to go a different way, especially when there are dogs in backyards she is accustomed to hailing with perked ears and lolling tongue. I wonder sometimes what our different routes feel like to her–the layers of scent she no doubt catches, the sounds she hears, the brief polite conversations with other dogs as we run past. Odd Trundles, of course, has to smash his face against anything to smell it, so he spends a great deal of his life lipping and snuffling everything in reach, hungry for sensation.

We see through lattices: perception, memory, attention, and habit form a kaleidoscope. Ever-changing patterns, even the most solid intersections can suddenly turn ninety degrees and crumble.

Which is, I suppose, a good reason to keep moving. If one crumbles, another one has solidified. Moving from handhold to handhold, dancing in a kaleidoscope, we are all athletes of perception.

It’s so funny that many of us don’t know…