By Gerald Hausman
Santa Fe, NM, USA

Once in a great while you find a book of such unusual merit, it sets you on edge to read it, and you wonder how it was done, how it happened.

I am speaking of Darden Smith’s The Habit of Noticing: Using Creativity to Make a Life (and a Living). It is a collection of wise and wonderful poetry, interviews with known and unknown artists, evanescent moments, transcendental seconds spent with trees, streets, matchbooks, small mites of wonder and massive buildings that look like the prow of a ship (the Flatiron building, for example).

This is a lovely hardbound book of insights that could change your life for the better. Darden Smith, the author, is a healer and a visual artist. His songwriting retreats for veterans helps them in ways that cannot be explained.

Darden Smith teaches by showing, singing, and using his life’s work as an example of how to train yourself to look outside yourself. He shows us how to see the world as it really is. His method of teaching in the book is both poetry, conversation, and imagery.

It’s a collection of common things that suddenly leap forth, breaking away from the mundane into the world of the supernatural. A cigarette pack, a woman walking in a Paris morning, a lane of trees disappearing into a horizon line of the imagination.

The power of the images in this finely designed and printed volume could surprise and please anyone with eyes. It is what I call a “lookbook”, something that begs to be seen again and again.

Darden Smith

I also highly recommend the audio book. Smith’s voice, guitar and finely composed music will enchant as it entertains. But always, with the things that he does, it stays with you. It gets into your heart.

How rare it is that an artist is a songwriter, a singer, a sketch artist, a deep thinker, a spontaneous man with a genius for communicating on almost any level with other members of the human race. Maybe this is why Darden Smith is booked on stage in cities across the U.S. and in Europe.

Here is a sample of what you will find in The Habit of Noticing:

Joe Ely is the only person I know
Who ran off and joined an actual circus.
Talk to him about that time even now
And his eyes light up.

Few of us can go that far.
But look around.
Find your own circus.

That place,
That gang
That draws
You slowly, slowly out
Onto your own

The book is full of funny, thoughtful, surprising photographs, line drawings, and poems. As well as off-the-cuff interviews packed with wisdom. You will see dozens of photographs of people you have known, grown up with, admired, laughed at, laughed with, and enjoyed on so many different levels. You will see them as they really are. Just people. But – and here is the twist – each one has something to say about how creativity helped to fashion a life and a living.

I have never seen a book like this.

Neither have you.

(Darden Smith photo credit: Michael O'Brien)



Gerald Hausman is the author of Not Since Mark Twain - Stories and a regular contributor to Stay Thirsty Magazine.

All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.