Be Observant by Salvatore Buttaci



Such a simple bit of advice that sadly not too many take. Being observant means being aware of the world around us, not merely in the sense of knowing world affairs but more importantly, being aware of how we can enrich our everyday lives.

We miss so much! From morning wake-up to the closing of day, we seem to move through our hectic paces, trying hard to get our work done, cramming as much as we can into the hours, too busy to stop and “smell the roses.” Even if we do give it a thought, we placate ourselves by arguing “the money’s got to be made” or “Someday when I retire” or “When I win the lottery,” but “Not now when I have so much to do.”

In 1954 Sr. Rita Damien was my 7th grade English teacher who one day taught us a first lesson about writing a poem. The class groaned––even I, though I loved writing poetry, but hated being the odd boy out.

One of the class troublemakers yelled out, “Sister, we don’t like poems.”

Sister smiled. She’d heard that line perhaps countless times. “What is a poem?” she asked, and when none of us offered a definition, she went on to say, “A poem is a way of earning a part of the world and saving it on paper.” What did that mean! “For homework today I am sending all of you to the park down the street. I want you to find a flower and examine it, observe its colors, its fragrance, the softness of its petals, the way it bows its head to passing breezes. Then I want you to go home and write a poem about your flower.”

All that I remember of that afternoon was kneeling in the spring grass, reaching out and studying a white daisy with its golden center so I could describe it and write about it in my poem. Since then I have never passed a garden or a grove of trees or a tall mountain without thinking of Sister Rita and her assignment. I can still hear her telling the class, “We are all God’s creatures, sharing his creation!”

We must also observe the people with whom we come in contact. Make an effort to remember names in first encounters. Listen to them when they speak. Sometimes your kind word of praise can mean the difference between a blah day and a joyful one. Plato once wrote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”

Of course, writers know how essential being observant is. Without vivid descriptions of people, places, and things, they cannot hope to provide readers with the same images their precise words project.

Another way of acquiring an observing nature is to recognize the fact that there is good and bad in all of us. Those of different political parties, religious affiliations, and ethnicities all have some beliefs we share or at least can understand.

If we are observant we can all learn from one another. We can start to see people and things in a better light. We can cut down the speed of the treadmills we ride to work each day, so instead of seeing the world in a kind of blur in reverse, we can begin to see we are not alone. We need one another to enrich our lives. We’ll care about the environment and we will not object to being our brothers’ keepers when, observing their plight, we extend to them our helping hands.

BIO   Salvatore Buttaci

Salvatore Buttaci is a retired teacher and professor whose work has appeared in The Writer, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and elsewhere here and abroad. He was the 2007 recipient of the $500 Cyber-wit Poetry Award. He lives with his wife Sharon in West Virginia.

His collection of 164 short-fiction stories, Flashing My Shorts, is available from as

His follow-up flash collection, 200 Shorts, was just released and available at

– Salvatore Buttaci

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22 thoughts on “Be Observant by Salvatore Buttaci

  1. Salvatore Buttaci

    What a sincere honor to have an essay of mine published here at The Write Room Blog! It’s a place fast becoming THE place to go for worthwhile reads. I invite you to tell your friends to drop by. We love the company…

  2. Trish Jackson

    What a great message. I always tell myself to stop and smell the roses, but I don’t always follow through. And the author of this piece is so right. Just a few words of encouragement or kindness can change someone else’s life.

  3. Monica Brinkman

    I’ve always called the “Maser of the Written Word’ and this article is a fine example of why I personally feel he has owned this title. From poetry, flash fiction, short-stories and outstanding commentaries, Mr. Buttaci never fails to deliver.

    Not only is Sal Buttaci a fine writer, he is a fine individual who embraces life and all it holds. Wonderful piece of writing and perhaps today, I too shall stop a moment to ‘smell the roses’.

  4. Cynthia B Ainsworthe

    What great advice Sal has given us. Too often we ignore the little things and fail to live in the moment; forever looking for the next best thing while not noticing the beauty in our lives.

  5. Joe

    Sal’s writing is always full of layers of observations. His writing is exactly what he described in this article. Whereas, a lot of writers announce a story on the Web, the collective classroom (that we readers are) usually groans: “Not another”, but with Sal’s stories, it’s always that walk to the park. You know you’re not being handed an assignment but a unique and always adveturous observation. Sal’s writing shows us not just the flowers in the proverbial park but also the trees, the people/animals (sometimes one-in-the-same) and the world at large. His writing is always interesting and thought-provoking and that is why he is one of the best writing today. Writing is usually no “walk in the park”, but Sal’s writing always is.

  6. Lori Foroozandeh

    You are so true in everything you say. I’m so impatient that I barely can sit still long enough to observe anything. I used to think I was a poet when I was four years old, I watched these drapes blow while I was sick in my mothers bed, and I thought I’m going to write a poem about them, this was the poem, don’t laugh:)
    I love my drapes their all kinds of shapes
    I love them so, even though they blow
    LMAO, needless to say I never wrote a poem again. I understand poems don’t have to rhyme but I’m just no good at them. I can write journals and of course my book which is more observing than I ever wanted to do, but no poems. So I salute you sir:)

  7. Louise Malbon-Reddix

    How beautiful! We, oftentimes fail to recognize that we do experience the world through all of our senses. Not just what we see, but also what we feel and smell and taste too! Many Blessings to you Sir, and thanks for a beautiful reminder !

  8. Delinda

    Bravo! Here is a lesson all writers need to learn. I can write the lesson as a social psychologist, Sal had done it as an artist. Life is in the details.

  9. Sharla

    Sal, what a wonderful article. Too many people simply participate in life, instead of truly observing the world around them. So much is missed and it occurs on a daily basis right under each person’s nose!

  10. Micki Peluso

    I’ve known Sal for many years and consider him both friend and fellow writer. His exposition explains what it takes to be a good poet through observance, but it certainly takes a little of the genious and natural talent of Sal to create works like his.

  11. Salvatore Buttaci

    I am overwhelmed by all the positive comments about my this essay of mine. You make me so happy that I submitted it to The Write Room Blog. As for being a good writer, I am one of so many even better than I (I know this, having read many of your works!). Let’s take a second or two out of our day to thank God for the gift of writing, an added bonus to His other gifts like breathing and being alive. Thank you all. I am proud to be counted among you in the finest of communities!

  12. Patricia Yeager

    Hello Salvatore, I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting you, however, I do know most of the kind folks here who have commented. That’s enough for me to know you are a great person, writer, poet. I do hope to get to know you better through LinkedIn and Marta’s blog sites.

    I am one of those humans who used to plow through through life simply trying to survive. After a break-down, of sorts, several years ago, I began to realize how precious life is, and how awesome each day we are alive, is. I too have written poetry inspired by my observations of God’s Beautiful earth. The fragrance of a flower, the gentle feel of Spring grass beneath our bare feet, the shape of a stone, large or small, etc. So much bounty to appreciate.

    Thank you for your post. I enjoyed reading it and look forward to reading more of your work.


    1. Salvatore Buttaci

      Patricia, thanks for your comments. In this life of ours, blessed are those who must face heavy-duty hardships! It affords them pause to reflect, to think hard on which road to take, on what priorities count more than others. God provides us with so many delights to better our lives. We should accept them open-eyed and heart-ready!

  13. Dr. Johnny Velazquez

    Great read. There are times, when I find myself, at loss for words, or a simple title for my next blog. Based on what you have written, I need to stop, and smell the roses. We tend to bypass all that beauty that God has place here, for us to enjoy, and to capture its essence.

    I remember taking a composition class in High School. As jock, I was not supposed to spend time writing, or for that matter, be so descriptive of my surroundings. Glad I did not allow my peers to hold me back. Your article tends to move, and/or arouse, that hidden poetic virtue which drives me to see beyond, thus reviving that which has been muddled far too long. Keep encouraging us. Blessings.

  14. Marta Merajver-Kurlat

    Sal, many of us writers, who are supposed to be observant, do not always apply our observation to our own lives. As someone said before, we procrastinate because there are so many other “important” things to do.
    “To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
    Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
    To the last syllable of recorded time;
    And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
    The way to dusty death.”
    It takes someone like you to remind us of the need to enjoy today through observation.
    Thank you for this article in particular, and for your generous talent in general.

  15. Martha Love

    Thank you, Sal, for this beautiful, poetic reminder to smell the plumeria, listen to the birds, and open up our senses. Both a poetic and healthy lifestyle!

  16. Linda Hales

    We are told to slow down and ‘smell the roses’ but from this day forward, I will be in search of a ‘white daisy’ and focus on the lesson that I have learned here today. Life does not need to be more complicated than it really is. If we are observant, we can see how much sense it makes to keep it simple and value what is truly important. Sal – you are a wonderful writer and always give so much to take away.

  17. Yves Johnson

    What great advice. I’ve found it difficult, at times, to get off the hampster wheel. It always seems as though another “thing” needs my attention. Thanks for the reminder and wonderful story.

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