one single deer walked across this frozen marsh. it left its footprints behind and we could see that it was alone, at least as it crossed. we wondered where it was going, if it would be meeting other deer, if it was young or older, if it had been seeking food or a little open water. we’ve seen many deer on this stretch of trail. they are usually in the woods, gazing out at us as we pass. they stand silently and watch, making sure that we mean no harm. and, of course, we don’t. i always whisper to them how very beautiful they are and i thank them for their quiet presence.
i wonder – after we leave and our boots are printed in the snowy trail – if the deer ponder us. if they wonder where we are going, if we are meeting others, if we are young or older, if we are seeking food or open water.
one of the reasons we love being on the trail is to mutually share that space with wildlife as it surrounds us. we know that there are many creatures, many critters we will not see, though they likely see us. and while we can usually identify them and whether we are in jeopardy – if we see them – we know that identifying humans is harder. for creatures and critters do not know the intent of humans as they pass. they do not know who humans are nor if they are in danger because humans are nearby. the sun rises and sets in their neck of the woods and they must always be vigilant. few natural predators, their vigilance is mostly because of the humans.
they do not realize that it is also necessary for humans to be vigilant of humans. for not all are well-intended and some mean harm. some are singularly focused on hurtful agenda, some are dedicated to marginalizing others, some are dangerous.
i hope that our footprints – now and later – reveal goodness, cause no alarm, are no menace. there’s already enough of that in this world.
there was this knot-hole in this tree on this trail. i used to stop there each time we hiked – to gaze through it…stand and take in what i could see through the tiny porthole in the woods. always, it was a reminder of the fluidity of time, of ever-present change, of nothing standing still.
the porthole i found in the milwaukee art museum – through one of barbara hepworth’s sculptural pieces – had the same impact on me. bending down, i focused only on what i could see through that porthole. on a different day, at a different time of day, in a different month or season, never static. even minutes from my peeking-through, the wind picked up and the lake’s surface roiled a bit and all from before was erased.
late-late on sunday nights – into the wee hours – we stay awake to listen and watch our son livestream mixes from a club in chicago. he was away for a couple weeks and we missed these late dj nights. they are our porthole – our tree-knot-hole – into what he is creating, producing, learning, feeling. every midnight-hour-sunday we see the changes in the new seasons of his work, his growth, his zeal, his poise at tech controls that evoke curves of mood, layers of sound, textures of music we may not have accessed otherwise. we see his joy.
it’s the same reason i took my first snowboard lesson. at that time, it was a porthole view into our daughter’s life – a peeking window that allowed us to feel the smallest smidge of her professional work. watching her fly down mountains, picking up speed and agility and ever-more skill through our tree-knot-hole on the sidelines and touching her joy-magic with our own feet on a snowboard on a hill.
we can assume things about others. humans do it all the time. broad sweeping generalizations about people and peoples – different because of race or color or gender identity or ethnicity or country of origin or age or disability or socioeconomic status or politics or religion or whatever the prejudice-de-jour might be. we glance over at “them” and form opinions; we claim to be “open and affirming” yet we slam closed the porthole that might give us a true look into their life. we scrub away the transparency of truth and apply the balm of our agenda – totally missing perspective, the possibility of commonality, the gift of community, the connectedness of us all as a species attempting to just keep on keeping on.
were we – perhaps – to notice, to step forward and take a closer look, to shield ourselves from inevitable human failings of assumption and instead to breathe deeply and gaze – we might have a view into the sameness of us all, the things that unite us, the things we need honor and hold in high regard….that we are all one under the sun. that while we cannot walk in another’s shoes, we might learn by looking through any and every tree-knot-hole we can find. that new eyes, new focus may also mean new learnings and new appreciation and new grace. that we should stop and peer through portholes whenever we can. there’s no time to waste.
it lay in the snow, the last of the sun’s rays dancing across it. it was merely a single pinecone. but the sun drew me to it and the way the light played on it called attention to the texture. up close and personal, it is a painting.
reading reveals that pinecones are the safe place for the seeds of the tree, that pinecones can remain on a tree for even ten years, that pine cones open and close depending upon moisture. more complex than you might think.
though ever-important for the proliferation of pine trees, pinecones are one of those things we pass by, often not noticing. what else are we missing – passing by the ordinary, not stopping to really look.
because we know our favorite trail well, we see the tiny shifts, the changes, the transformation. we watch the light play on the cattails and marsh grasses and catch the shadows as they fall. if one note in the woods is different, one tint of color, we draw up, stop. there are days we are stopping often, capturing the transitions, watchful.
we don’t buy a lot of new things. we are sorely behind the fashion curve – i suspect our target jeans are a few years behind-the-times. instead, we accumulate these moments of noticing. our breath is not connected to the facets of diamonds, but rather to the way underbrush berries stand out against the snow. we don’t reach for the keys of a porsche; we reach for our backpack to take on the trail. we do not watch a larger-than-life screen tv; our big-screen of choice is outside.
we look for the paintings in the snow, in the sky, in the stand of trees. we listen for the song of the breeze, of wildlife sharing space with us. the wind stings our cheeks and makes the tips of our fingers burn. we are grateful for the quiet and this path through the forest, across the marsh, along the river.
we immerse in the 3D canvas nature is providing us. no virtual reality needed.