She looks like a seraphic white dove from a distance. Up close and in profile, like a fuzzy, green-eyed, hump-backed teddy bear. Head-on, like a cross-eyed, comical what-is-it. She’s always laughing, or so it appears. She’s my new favorite friend of the fluttery kind, and I almost missed her.
In fact, I almost missed it all. I’ll show her to you in a little bit, but first let me explain…
It was a gazillion degrees outside.
I had gravel in my flip-flops.
I was totally ticked off because it just wasn’t “happening for me,” photography-wise. I’d spotted a kingfisher perched politely on a bare branch on the opposite shore of the narrow lake, but by the time I got to that side, the kingfisher had gone fishing – elsewhere. Just then a dainty green heron lowered her wings and hooked a tree with her talons on the side of the lake I’d just come from. It seemed a wry taunt. I was not amused.
So here I was, in foul humor, limping hurriedly along to the next site I deemed having potential for that “one good shot,” frustrated and full of myself, when a voice in my head (yeah, I hear those) clearly chided,
“You just missed one thousand things.”
I wasn’t in the mood for reprimands even from myself, so picked up my pace just for spite, but the voice was insistent. Crap. I KNOW that voice. It’s often right. Grudgingly, I set my camera bag down, fished out my macro lens to replace the telephoto I’d been sporting apparently, and solely, for the arm-workout the weight of it ensures.
I slowed down. Then stopped. I closed my eyes and listened.
And then, sure enough…… ONE THOUSAND THINGS.
Okay, more like dozens, since I’d likely already passed at least 900 of them in my haste. DOZENS went whirring or rustling or slithering or fluttering or gliding or ambling by and around me. Humble things, modest in size, but packed to the gills, the pinions, fur and scales with interest and beauty.
I had wanted to be the big shot photo-huntress, come back to camp with shots of raptors and snakes, white-tailed deer and shore birds, strutting in like a Navajo hunter with a trophy elk hide slung over his shoulder.
Instead (and I thank God for this), I sat down in a field of native prairie grasses taller than I, and listened to the stories the goldfinches, the red-winged blackbirds, the passionflowers and dragonflies were telling. I counted big-eyed skippers and lost track at 162, I laid on my back in the near-blooming goldenrod and listened to Earth’s breath, felt Her pulse.
After the voice and before another hour had passed, I had honestly seen hundreds of things I’d missed….some external, some within. So the question I’m scattering out here as seed is….what are YOUR “one thousand things?”
Are they the myriad expressions that pass across your child or grandchild’s face as a new revelation softly assaults their eager minds? Are they the subtle, unspoken ways your lover or spouse communicates to you your hallowed place in his/her life? Are you missing them while still looking for the “BIG birds?” Are they the ways the ocean waves curl and foam at your feet, inviting you to recognize your body’s kinship to the elements, being largely comprised, itself, of water? The personal satisfaction and self-confidence your work brings to you?
Will you slow down, pay attention, be informed, maybe even TRANSformed?
Here is the dove/bear/what-is-it I promised to tell you about earlier. Isn’t she delightful? She’s a flower moth of some sort (Schinia), though I haven’t been able to determine if she’s a unimacula, a luxa or a buta.
Doesn’t matter ….she’s just one of a thousand things I almost missed.
(Click on any photo to enlarge. Do you see what’s hiding in the next to last photo? She’s the Queen of Camo!)
When my sister Theresa was a pre-teen, a ravaging disease stole her eyes. Eighty-five percent of her vision was lost before she had a chance to look out on much of the intricate diversity and insane beauty of this planet. She’s “legally blind,” and yet in ways an optometrist hasn’t the tools to measure, she’s one of the most “sighted souls” I’ve ever met… living always “in the moment,” fully present and acutely aware. She accomplishes more in a day than I do in a week, and does so with verve.
I empathize with Theresa regarding her visual limitations, which is not to say that I feel sorry for her. In fact, I aspire to “see” as well as my sister sees, to have those eyes — the ones that assemble a clear mental picture of any creature based not only upon limited visual information, but upon intangibles: insight, intuition, keen awareness of tone, inflection, body language (she can see basic shape and posture) and myriad other clues lost to those of us who operate from only a fraction of the resources available to us.
Why am I telling you all this?
Because when I come home from the woods or fields lugging my camera bag full of maxed-out S.D. cards, feeling like I should be looking over my shoulder for thieves, so weighty is the value of my “treasure,” I can guarantee I’ve had Theresa on my mind.
My hyper-awareness in nature is due in large part to the fact that since my sister lost her sight, I can no longer take one fascinating detail – not an ant’s fuzzy thorax or the alien eyes of a fly or the powdery curve of a butterfly’s wings — for granted, not one breath-stealing scene can fly by me without praise. I can see! I CAN see! I can SEE!
And so I will. I choose to pay attention. So if I go missing, find me — I’ll likely be sitting, blissed out beside an ant hill or beneath a cedar on my back in order to see what a waxwing looks like from the underside. You might have to pull my head by my hair out of the creek where I’ve plunged to get an eyeful of what a crayfish looks like in his own world, but wherever I am, you can bet your last dollar I’m looking, and looking hard….with mine and my sister’s eyes.