Preoccupied

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Words by Naomi Evans. Illustrations by Julio Brenes

 

Our cities are the playgrounds in which people and places collide. A walk through its streets might reveal any number of sparkling moments in shops, offices and restaurants. Windows and doorways hint at activity beyond…people together, and people on their own. Stairways and elevators beckon us to discoveries on rooftops above, and in basements below. There is so much to see if we are aware enough to notice! And yet, how easy it is to miss the details of life when we are preoccupied in our own space; lost in our thoughts…faces glued to our phones…headphones on and music blaring.

Yes, we are a part of our glistening cities. But so often we’re oblivious to the lives being lived around us because we are absorbed, distracted, or disinterested. In a preoccupied daze, moments of public life may go unnoticed…and become effectively ‘hidden’.

It is with this in mind that we present Preoccupied, a series of urban vignettes in rhyming stanza that illustrate missed moments in public life. Each verse features a different character, and collectively they form a familiar portrait of contemporary society. The characters represented may be well intentioned, but they fail, nevertheless, to see beauty or opportunity around them, and behind a veil of distraction the city is hidden.

 

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But as it happened, he wasn’t even aware
that he knocked over her bucket as he raced down the stairs.

 

High above the footpath in a city skyscraper
sat a man at his desk, he was a software creator.
He had a wife and three kids who he couldn’t wait to see
At the end of each day, before bath time and tea.
When 5:30 came he was determined to beat
the peak hour rush that crowded the streets.
Had he not been in a hurry as he flew out the door,
he might have noticed the cleaner (she was mopping the floor).
But as it happened, he wasn’t even aware
that he knocked over her bucket as he raced down the stairs.

 

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But as it happened, she did not see…
mother duck waddle by with her family.

 

Daisy Delaney was an average school girl,
Facebook and Snapchat and Insta were her world.
When she went out with friends, and when she was alone
she was always fiddling with her iPhone.
One morning she sat as she waited for the bus
when a duck and her ducklings decided to pass.
If her eyes had not been glued to the screen,
Daisy would have cooed at the sweet little scene.
But as it happened, she did not see
mother duck waddle by with her family.

 

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But as it happened, he did not see
the crowd giving voice to what they believe.

 

A man with a mortgage left work very cross,
because he’d misplaced receipts, and had a row with his boss.
He threw open the door and stormed out to the street,
his hands in his pockets, his eyes at his feet.
Lost in his thoughts he did not notice
a passing parade, a political protest.
Had he not been engrossed in his own bitter thoughts
he might have joined in the rally to support a good cause.
But as it happened, he did not see
the crowd giving voice to what they believe.

 

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But as it happened, he did not see
the girl cry quietly in her misery.

 

On the 9:15 train young Timothy sat
next to a girl with a long golden plait.
He scrolled through his playlist and eventually chose
“Around the World” by Natalie La Rose.
With his headphones on he did not hear
a gentle sniffle as the girl shed a tear.
Had the volume been lower, or the tempo been light,
he might have heard her and asked if she were alright.
But as it happened, he did not see
the girl cry quietly in her misery.

 

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But as it happened, she did not see
the pinks, golds, and reds spread over the city.

 

Lily Lamont was dressed very fine;
in a suit made of silk she looked simply divine.
Because she was famous she was accustomed to hide
behind glasses and a hat with a brim very wide.
As she left the hotel with her entourage
she was carefully concealed in her camouflage.
Had she lowered her glasses and lifted her eyes
she would have noticed the sunset as it colored the sky.
But as it happened, she did not see
the pinks, golds, and reds spread over the city.

 

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If you work in the city, or if it’s where you reside,
its streets are the playground where people collide.
Busy and bustling, it’s a great place to be,
down laneways, up lamp posts…there’s so much to see!
But if you’re distracted, or when you’re absorbed,
or feeling a little tired or grumpy or bored,
A moment may pass that you won’t see again…
A smile from a stranger as you wait for the train.
So lift up your eyes and open your mind,
it may well delight you, the things that you find!

 

Julio Brenes is a Melbourne-based illustrator and architect. He has practiced in both his native Costa Rica and Australia. Julio has taught at the Canberra University Design School and participated in Urban Art interventions. The declining practice of freehand drawing within the architectural industry led Julio to facilitate regular outdoor sketching groups for architectural professionals in Melbourne. His drawings and writings are published on his blog.
www.drawthatout.com | www.drawthatout.tumblr.com

Naomi Evans is a Melbourne-based architect and writer. A graduate of both the University of Melbourne and RMIT University, Naomi has since worked on a number of significant public architecture projects in Australia and abroad. She has written for publications in the UK and Australia and writes for her blog Melburnienne.com.
www.melburnienne.com | @Melburnienne

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