Aug 18 2010

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Seeing, Not Seeing

Posted at 2:54 pm under Blog Post

The slight rustle of leaves catches my ear.  I know that sound well, so I stop and look around.  At first I see nothing.  Then looking closer, I spot a garter snake slithering beneath the ferns.

Like most wild creatures, the snake is well camouflaged in its natural environment.  But that doesn’t change the fact that I almost missed it.  For every snake I see while I’m hiking along the trail, I miss ten.  Perhaps a hundred.

While wandering through the woods, I am happy enough stretching my legs, breathing heavy and breaking a good sweat.  The green infinity soothes my eyes.  The forest quiet calms my frazzled, urban nerves.  A whiff of something dank yet vaguely sweet makes me smile.  That’s the smell of the forest itself.  And I traipse along in a daydream of sorts, only half paying attention to the world around me, enjoying the mental vacation.

Should I be paying more attention?  Should I break through that deceptive veil of forest sameness and see the myriad creatures occupying it?  Should I stop and admire the occasional flower, or is it enough just being footloose and free for the day, clearing my head?  Those who love wild nature scowl at the obliviousness of day-trippers like me.  Yet I wonder how much time they spend each day in front of a computer screen.  Isn’t it enough just being here now, detached from the cyberworld?

I shudder to think how many things I fail to see as I go about my daily affairs.  Then again, you can’t see it all.  I have lounged next to a quiet pond for a full day just trying to take it all in.  But that’s impossible.  Even in the quietest place, there is too much going on.  So what can we do but see what we can see and leave the rest unseen.

The trick, of course, is not to miss too much.  Lost in my thoughts, I often miss the better part of days . . . weeks . . . dare I say months?

Life slithers past while we’re busy daydreaming.  That’s enough to give pause to even the most hardened, non-Thoreauvian soul.  What is it that we’re so busy thinking about?  Whenever I spot a snake on the forest floor, I silently congratulate myself for having seen it, resolving to pay better attention from now on.  But the daydreams always return – a virtual reality that plays in my head without end.

Thank god for the occasional rustle of leaves.

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