Powers of Observation

Last weekend I stopped by to visit with some new neighbors.  They were loading brush into the back of a truck to haul it to our town dump.

As we were chatting, I glanced down and remarked, “Careful you don’t grab that snake by mistake,” because a small garter snake was lying near my feet, probably raked up in the brush and leaf piles they were moving.

You would have thought I’d said “grenade” instead of “snake,” although no one visibly screamed or ran.  Then one of the four (a couple and her parents) remarked on my excellent powers of observation.

It was the second time in 3 days someone’s commented on that.  The Spoiler had said something about it a day or two earlier in a discussion we were having.  I must have said something (in typical wifely fashion) about “how could you not notice…” and he remarked that that was why he had me–to notice and point things out to him.

This got me wondering whether this is a skill that gardeners acquire.  I remember a lecture by Bill Cullina when he was talking about the new Children’s Garden at the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden and he said that there were ferns and other plants pressed into the concrete stepping stones in that part of the garden.  He said that the kids saw them every time but the adults just walked right on by.

What’s up with that? Are we all too busy on our smartphones? Even in a botanical garden?

And I am always amazed as I take walks around my neighborhood that every walker or runner but me seems to have on some sort of device to shut out the environment.  Not only is that dangerous–we have very few sidewalks so we’re all walking in the road and I don’t want cars and drivers–many of whom are equally distracted–sneaking up on me!–but part of the walk is through a lovely natural area with birds and other wildlife.

This is the time of year that baby turtles are hatching and returning to our freshwater lake.  Alas, all I’ve seen so far are squashed baby turtles.  Perhaps if others were slightly more observant, there might be fewer squashed turtles.

But all along the walk I can hear the calls of various birds.  And as I cross a small beach, I’ll often see all sorts of shore birds–osprey, cormorants, heron, egrets and even the occasional bittern if I’m quiet enough.

Anyone notice the cormorant on the float in the above photo?  You’re forgiven if not–it’s way in the distance.

But I do often wonder, how can anyone not notice–or better yet, why shut out nature with earplugs?

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