The secret to seeing

I always have preferred to aimlessly wander, even on seemingly well-defined pathways, with little or no clear destination in mind. My Partner-in-Travel says I’m always looking everywhere except where I’m going. She exaggerates, but not by much.

I look also where I’m going. There is so much going on out there, and I don’t want to miss any of it, and it’s not really difficult to look in multiple places at one time.

Now the temperature is more tolerable, I can be found wandering in my backyard, sometimes without leaving the deck or table, nearly motionless among the bees, seeds and the distinctive cooing of doves. A pair of House Sparrows is attempting to nest in the Bluebird house on the side fence. A Bluebird couple is not happy about that,

Blue Jays and Northern Cardinals stop at the feeder to pig out like human children at a shopping mall candy counter. The cardinals are fun to watch as they sneak a few limbs at a time, from the top of the Purple Plum tree to the end of a branch nearest the feeder.

The various avian groups form ethnically diverse, though overlapping, communities like groups of suburban parents at the same park, each group happy to allow the others to share the area while maintaining conversational separation.

I highly recommend wandering for its exceptional capacity to reveal. The secret, in fact, is to not look for or at specific things, lest while you are focused here, you miss something happening there.

The human brain is an amazing device. We can be in a room with dozens of conversations, and hear only the discourse being whispered over in the corner or notice from our attentive post behind the steering wheel a Red-shouldered Hawk diving to grab a vole from near the corner post of the fence we are passing. .

Like the day I was on a trail near Blue Ridge Summit and spied a spider web. I did not actually see it, in the sense that I knew exactly where it was. In fact, finding it required another few minutes or so of searching. I knew about where it was, just off the right side of the trail, but darned if I could locate it. Then, suddenly, there it was, across an opening in the trees.

The tiny arachnid moves slightly. Gotcha! She sits near the center of a 18-inch diameter orb hung across the clearing like a net across a creek when the mayflies are hatching.

Later, I spy another of the 8-legged critters about four feet from me, visible only when a breeze causes a tiny piece of trapped dandelion seed to oscillate against the green background.

A seedling bullfrog surfaces in a shallow backwater of the stream. I turn my head to see what attracted my attention, and have to search carefully to discover his nose poking just above the surface, a small dark blunted triangle that wasn’t there a moment ago.

I move to continue my way up the trail and a Jack-in-Pulpit calls out, about an arm’s length perpendicular to the course my left foot has set, demanding attention from walk-in and resident congregants alike.

Rounding a curve at the edge of a pasture, I nearly stepped on a Whitetail fawn, its position barely announced by the twitch of an ear. Its mother watches, but I have not yet found her. She will appear when she thinks I am looking elsewhere.

I’ve seen a lot of stuff in my time on this planet – much of it when I was not actually looking. “Try it. You’ll like it.”

Thanks for wandering with me. Please take a moment and share the link with people who might like a walk in the woods with us.

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