As an inveterate magpie, I’m admittedly enchanted by almost anything sparkly and glinting that happens to catch my eye. A flash of reflected sun from a momentary wavelet on a lake at eventide is no better or worse than a shred of tinfoil glimmering from the dark recesses of a trash bin, when it comes to attention-getting power. I wonder at times whether this attitude of mine spills over into accepting cheap substitutes for the real thing in areas of life and knowledge that matter far more than mere visual stimulation does.
Do I pay enough attention to my life and all of its contextual influences?
I do when I remember. But that’s never quite enough, is it? It can become a plain old excuse to say ‘I’m only human.’ So much more power is given us, if we dare to exercise it. No matter what my beliefs and convictions are, if I’m given the capability of questioning and examining them and growing through deeper listening and learning, should I not use that power fully and joyfully? I am reminded often enough by my failures and faults that I can only engage this discernment usefully for myself and have neither the power nor the right to assume my journey will apply to all (or indeed, any) others. This sojourn of learning, questing and listening, and yes, looking at both the shiny objects and those seemingly dull ones presented to me will lead, if I am both fortunate and patient, determined and humble, to a treasury more valuable than all of the scintillations in a world of costume jewelry.
That which is ubiquitous in my life, the thing that I walk by every single day or experience every time I am in a particular, familiar setting, can become invisible to me. For good or ill, I can forget to notice anymore those things that are so close they could bite me on the nose before I paid proper attention to them. They might be so near I could change them for the better with little effort or they could, if I’m too foolish to do that, turn on me and make my life or someone else’s immeasurably worse for having been left unchanged; good things, conversely, can be so near that I could be uplifted by the mere thought of them if I only gave them a thought in passing.
I must pay better attention. My senses should be enough to remind me of all the woe and wealth that surround me at every turn, and my will should follow my convictions enough to make me respond with a hand of aid, a voice of change, or a heart full of admiration and gratitude. The vast majority of the world hasn’t nearly the kind of wealth and privilege that surrounds me in my life—materially, yes, but also in health, safety, opportunity, hope and happiness—and while there is no reason to reject what I have, it should motivate me to take a closer look around me. I ought to take constant inventory and be willing to counter the wrongs and repair those things that I can, or at the least, call upon those who are able to make positive change. And I should be glad at every sign that states the obvious good in my life. Thankfulness is a small enough part of true mindfulness, but looms large in the world of well-being.
Photobombed by some kind of small heron (I think), I didn’t even see this beauty until I enlarged the photo and found it in the very bottom corner of what was already a pretty woodland scene by the beach in Puerto Rico. Sneaky little fella.
Birdwatching was one of those pursuits that mystified me when I was much younger. Ignorant youth! I always appreciated that birds looked pretty in a general way, or were exotic, or sang wonderfully or had intriguing nesting and feeding habits, but I suppose I rarely went beyond that in my appreciation of the creatures.
I can’t even quite say when that shallow attitude deepened. While I’m still far from a skilled or knowledgeable birder, let alone an ornithologist, I think I can claim to have gotten smarter somewhere along the way, to the degree that even in places I visit constantly and expect nothing new, I am almost always on hopeful watch for birds of any kind.
Never mind that I can still misidentify a female Cardinal as a Cedar Waxwing at remarkably close quarters and be endlessly fooled by Mockingbirds‘ varied calls and songs as being other birds’ entirely. I have fallen in love with birds and observation of them much more as I age. Their unique beauties set my heart beating a little bit faster. Opening a window to hear an avian chorus in full and tuneful counterpoint opens my soul as well as my ears. Seeing the characteristic wing shape of a gleaming vulture against the singed blue of the summer sky or the forked feathers on a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher lifts my spirits as though I could launch upward into the heavens as they all do. Now that I’ve ousted my childish casualness toward birds, I don’t want them to leave me behind.
Another bodacious birdie from near the Puerto Rican shore.