Friday, June 06, 2008

The Great Connection

I’ve been reflecting on pleasures this week. With all the angst of rising food and energy prices and worries about the economy, jobs, and the war, I don’t want to lose myself in anxiety and miss the small pleasures in life. Sure, there are some big pleasures that are planned in advance - such as my upcoming trip to Memphis to see family and friends - but I am trying these days to fine-tune my pleasure receptors to the unexpected, serendipitous rewards most of us can receive every day, if we are open to them.

One of my downsizing/simplifying goals was to make an attempt to get closer to nature. As I’ve posted before, I have always enjoyed indoor activities (quilting, music, etc.) over outdoor activities which are usually accompanied by sunburn, heat, cold, hazardous ice and snow, mud, humidity, rain, or - my personal favorite - insects. Ed has always said (and I tend to agree) that the farther away we humans move from nature, the more bereft and lost we become.

My co-workers, aware of my desire for initiating natural communion, gave me a hummingbird feeder for my birthday last September, and after a long, long Maine winter, I finally got to hang it up last month. The first week, I saw no hummingbirds at all. Then one day Ed called me at work to tell me there was some activity, but try as I might in the hours I was home, I never saw one tiny bird. He described to me their beauty, their coloring, their interactions with their fellow birds, but I only could use my imagination. Some nights, we would be eating our early supper, Ed in his chair that faced the sliding glass doors to the back porch, and thus the feeder, and me on the bench, back to the feeder. He kept a close eye out, and as soon as he saw a hummingbird, he told me, but by the time I turned around, the bird had already flown away. Understanding my frustration, Ed changed places with me, and from then on, I was sitting where I was facing the feeder.

Finally, it happened. I saw a tiny brown bird fly up to the porch, suspend herself in space without perching, drink the sweet liquid, then fly away. I never realized what an uplifting moment of pure pleasure it would be - something so simple, so natural, yet so spontaneous.

I’ve seen many hummingbirds since then, and I have enjoyed each one. I have found, though, that I need to remain open to the moment, for the experiences are unplanned and brief. I could stand there at the door for an hour and might not see anything, but on the other hand, I might be walking past the door on my way to the kitchen, and see two or three visitors. I have learned that if my brain is weighed down with the worries of life, focused on the negative, my eyes remain closed to the joy of the hummingbirds, because my brain is not receptive enough to notice.

It wasn’t long after that that I saw the first owl I had ever seen outside of a zoo. It was sitting in a tall tree in our backyard. Ed, whose “awareness quotient” has always been off the chart as much as mine has been below normal, saw it first and led me to the window. At first I thought it was a huge bird’s nest, as it was dusk and the light wasn’t perfect. But as I watched, the owl turned its head in that quick unmistakable motion, and I could see very clearly the object of our fascination. Before I could fully grasp the importance of the moment, the owl spread its big powerful wings and flew off.

To some of you nature-lovers and gardeners and people who think nothing of being out in the natural world, these may seem like trivial things. But to me, a city girl born and bred in Memphis, I still get a kick out of seeing an unexpected deer in our neighborhood, or a real moose. Even the little hummingbirds fascinate me.

I’ve been taking walks outside now that summer is here, so I’m not just observing nature through glass. But I am just now realizing the potential of those spontaneous pleasures, how fleeting they are, how memorable they are, and how I must keep my mind and eyes and ears open to their presence. I’m ready to embrace nature.

...Although, last week there were a couple of bears spotted in Ellsworth near the hospital where I work. I may be ready to embrace nature, but I'm not quite ready for a bear hug!


Joy said...

Nor a snake bite.

Cathy said...

Hello Carol - I'm not sure how I came upon you but have been reading your blog for a little while now - love it :)

Anyway even tho' we live in what is classed as suburbs we still have many birds around about and its a lovely thing to sit outside and just look at what's flying around.

Not quite so thrilled with nature tho' when the possums (protected species over here) are clomping around the roof tiles in the middle of the night. lol
Take care