Minute Particulars

Remembering “living life at the level of the little,” that thought from a post a few weeks ago (here), I’m thinking about short posts that linked together might make a narrative about noticing the little.

Before my much younger brother was born, my father lived in a household of women, my sister, mother, and me, and he always complained about our dinner table conversation for being laden with what he called “facetious minutiae.”

The dictionary defines facetious as “tongue in cheek, trying to be funny,” but in my childhood, I thought he  meant unimportant. Now it is too late to ask, but I wish I had – he might simply have enjoyed challenging us with the sound of strange words.

In the life of family and friends, I’m particularly aware of how hard it is to share the little details at a distance. We aren’t so good as the Victorians at those rich-with-detail letters. Waiting for eventful news to relate, an awkwardness of being out of touch develops and the small stuff doesn’t seem worthy. Years ago, my best friend in high school said (in letter writing college days), “I want to write a be-all letter but there isn’t time.”

I don’t know the answer to this. There is power in paying attention, but also a level and presentation of minutiae that is irritating, some details that are truly not worthy. Maybe by paying attention I sort out the differences.

The dictionary defines minutiae as “small or relatively unimportant details.” A reader recently reminded me (because she found it useful) of this William Morris quote (an organizing principle for “Her spirits rose…”): “A true source of human happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life and elevating them by art.”

A few minutes of focusing on the bottoms of worn out favorite socks, for example, with needle and thread, a patch from another pair of worn out socks, and a little yogurt container stuck in the sock as a darning egg – details of a small but comforting triumph!

4 thoughts on “Minute Particulars

  1. Coincidence? I just read this quote:
    “The happiness of life is made up of minute fractions – the little, soon-forgotten charities of a kiss or smile, a kind look, a heart-felt compliment, and the countless infinitesimals of pleasurable and genial feeling.”
    ~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge

    Minutiae…minute fractions…both excellent starts to this blustery day.

  2. It’s the particular details that give life to a story and a character. The trick is to be aware of what details enliven and what details deaden the reader or the listener.

    Only family really likes to hear the minutiae of life. Isn’t it comforting to know that there are people who will listen to the small things.


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