Taking Notice


  • Snowdrops have been blooming off and on since mid-January, so they are hardly a reliable indicator of spring.  It’s been a mild winter with rare intense seasonal episodes.  Yet suddenly vernal equinox is only one month away, so a previous anomaly may become an omen.  Soon it will be apparent if early shoots of bulbs and buds on trees _ unprotected by snowdrifts_ were destroyed in a record cold snap.
  • Last year’s harsh weather led to a late and concentrated awakening _ everything suddenly flowering at once and shriveling in heat immediately thereafter.  I think this year may be a more gradual series of waves flowing uninterrupted from late winter through early, mid, and late spring right into early summer.  I’ve been known to be wrong _ so I shall try to pay particular notice to what shows up when.  No matter what, I’m sure it will be worth watching closely.  


Homage to The Cloud
“I am the daughter of Earth and Water
And the nursling of the Sky”
Poetry flowing incredibly knowing
Beckoning me to try
But Shelley’s a genius, a gulf lies between us
I can’t write like that, we know
His visions are sweeter, I envy his meter
Mere wishing won’t make me so.
If I could but borrow his skills for one morrow
Perhaps create something which gleams
To craft a fine phrase which might thrill and amaze

Nice having impossible dreams


  • Catkins arrive this time of year regardless of outside conditions.  They are a kind of “save this date” reminder that something marvelous will be arriving in the future.  Often they have fluffed out and disappeared before any significant foliage opens. 
  • I admit that I sometimes prowl seeking something specific.  Such focused concentration unfortunately reduces my chances for serendipity.  A loud noise, a strong smell, an extravagant display may break through my reverie to reignite my complicated, marvelous experience, understanding, and enjoyment.  Otherwise I wander half-blinded by my thoughts.


“I see where you’re writing about noticing things,” says Ed, coming up behind me on the beach.  I’m marveling at the full moon high tide as waves begin to develop angrily in the raw north wind.  A duck rides them out unperturbed.
“Confess it’s true,” I reply noncommittally.   “Lately need a topic _ any topic _ to kick this old brain into gear every day.”
“Ok, but do you mean to notice the big things or the little things?”
“Both, I guess.  You have examples?”
“Big things the length of day, the warming air.  Little things garlic clumps and chickweed flowers.”
“Haven’t seen any chickweed yet …”
“You get the idea.  So which is really important?” he insists.
“Both.  Both.  The universe is all connected and …”
“Oh, you’re one of those guys,” he waves dismissively.  “Why not notice decaying logs and rocks which have been sitting around doing nothing for the last few years?  ‘Everything’ is basically nothing.”
“Whoa!  I like my brain in gear, but not this much!  I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition.”
We both laugh and chorus loudly “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!”

That startles the poor little duck which takes off away from the rising gale.  Fittingly, it has finally noticed us.


  • Pines depend on wind for pollination _ in arrogance science labels that “primitive” although they’ve been around longer than the flowering plants.  They need not wait for insects and simply rely on seasonal breezes to waft fertilization.  Then they produc
    e seed-bearing cones over summer, dispersed by birds in fall, and require a few surviving seedlings available for spring rains.
  • In point of fact, this year I have already noticed insect activity.  Of course, what I see of flights of gnats or flies is only an infinitesimal showing of vast unseen activity.  Termites and ants are rousing underground and in vegetation, bees have been busily fanning hives warm all winter, who knows what else strives beneath and around me.  Anytime I think I am noticing everything, I can be humbled to realize how crude my senses and understanding really are.


  • Our thoughts revolve around pattern creation, matching, and recognition.  If something fulfills a pattern, we are pleased.  If something does not match what we expect, we are surprised, for better or worse.  Fortunately, we are often so dominant in our environment that many surprises make us joyful enough to encourage curiosity.
  • What happens when I expect rain and find snow?  When I confidently seek signs of awakening spring and discover only desolation?  That’s the trouble with being too attached to preconceptions.  On my walk, I must be able to shift from, say, a naturalist perspective (buds are swelling) to one of an artist (aren’t the bare outlined branches lovely.)  Or anything else I choose.
  • Nobody can predict everything nor notice more than a fraction of what exists.  Even one seashell, one other person, provides more than enough basis for meditation to last hours or days.  If we could predict all, we would literally die of boredom.  Maybe that’s what happens to any god.
  • Proper balance is hard to achieve.  It is necessary to wear patterns strongly enough to be pleased when they come true, lightly enough to be happily surprised if they don’t.  The best observers and scientists utilize surprises to better understand what they think they know.
  •  For me, being surprised by noticing things is less utilitarian.  Rather it is a method to remain engaged and happy _ the word often invoked is “enchanted” _ with all I encounter, no matter how well it matches my particular transient expectation.


  • Incoming water in cold tidal marsh.  Nothing to see here _ empty carapaces of horseshoe crabs, dead reed mats woven together as if by demented artisans,  ubiquitous fragments of garbage, and mud, mud, mud.  Ospreys have not returned to nesting poles high overhead, egrets are wherever egrets go when it is thirty degrees, even seagulls are over on the other side of the causeway.  Brown and black, tones as monotonous as the vestibule of Hades.  Wet organic decay is the only, hesitant, smell.  Sounding occasionally over persistent low murmur of seabreeze is the deep hissing rush of car tires as people race to warm restaurants and shopping experiences.
  • I have forced myself here precisely because I never do.  I am usually in one of those hermetically sealed vehicles, eyes glued forward, mind racing ahead to where I am going.  Desolate scenes do not appear in National Geographic, nature documentaries, nor any newspaper unless there is a motionless body involved.  Yet this too is the world, nature, as integral to our universal miracle as any dandified gaudy flower bursting forth in a few months.  Winter marshland does not lack unique marvels _ I have just been sadly unable to notice them.

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