The Art of Continuing to Look

          Dragonfly Cornucopia (oil on canvas)

I imagine the insect’s eye/brain view and wish it were my own. Consider that kind of complete life focus on voluptuous warm color, a cheek perennially brushed by gentle petals lighter than air.

I am on a local hummingbird’s schedule for roughly one pm’s. It’s not me of course it’s the deep pink tree fuscia with nectar-weighty drooping downward trumpet shaped flowers by my door.

I suppose the hummingbird is driven by instinct toward what is, coincidentally, pretty. Well, we share that, humans and insects. Life shares that. What we can’t do is fly into, hover above, dip and turn within the maze of flowering bush and vine as a dizzying ecstasy overtakes the senses. But insects and birds are orderly, thoughtful…and looking for a meal.

A person drunk with color leaves those very things behind and likely will not care about food in the throes of heightened perception. Our ordinary survival vision, our daily life is functional, and beauty is a treat, a plan made to step aside in order to smell the roses.

If we want enveloping, there are pools below tropic waterfalls, sunsets where the colored air is digestible. We weave textiles of air borne silks and rich brocade, and decorate houses and plant gardens and relish the closeness of beautiful things.   And it suits our bigger plans, to see all we can, to witness and experience a multilayer life that every day expands before us and we reach to touch.

Shared too with animals and birds and bugs and water creatures who, after all, do migrate.  Everyone of us is on the search for something more, beyond what we know. And maybe that’s the life force, that internal push, the secret of being alive, the art of continuing to look.

The Art of Looking

Big Sur River Meets Pacific

The unexpected turns, the variations on a theme as you round a corner, done on purpose done indeed in order to change direction. Oh, life. Such abundance.

Last night near sundown I went to the state park that borders our beach, the place where the Big Sur River headlongs into the the Pacific. The river winds and turns gracefully, edged with reeds, logs, flowering bushes, the things of a river. Then the very air changes to some internally registered thrill, some dangerous anticipation. The flow alters. The banks widen. The air is doing unexpected current sweeps. There is titillating goosebumping excitement.

And from the increasingly dark overhangs and ruggedly twisted undergrowth is a diminishing chord as if a symphony has slowly limited itself to the single plaintiff mystery of one long note on one small string of one single instrument until silence is reached, a fuller silence than almost the body can bear. You plunge forward on the narrow dry path that changes color in quickening tempo until BAM! The ocean! You are thrown at it as mercilessly and with as much excitement as the fresh water feels.

Oh my God! scream the river blue green blues turning somersaults…I’m tasting salt, WOW! The unlimited surface of Earth and…I’M ON THE MOTHERSHIP!

Observation is about the single most important skill to nurture. It helps with everything from painting pictures to writing words to remembering faces. I’ve been taught and learnt my own tricks for picking up speed in that department.

One is this, worth trying. Describe. Describe what is around you, far and near. Keep at perfecting it until you find the right words, the ones that match the experience, the color, the form, shape, bulk, sense of it. I learned that from two excellent reporters. One, Edward R. Murrow’s war reports from London. The other, NY’s venerable genius Gabe Pressman who knows a lot about wordsmithery. It works. It is as simple as Murrow’s writing, as direct as:  I am on a rooftop in London. Bombs are bursting around me. Gabe’s advice: The sidewalk is split, goes from gray to black. The curb I approach has 3 shoots of grass, one dandelion sprouts from concrete. Dark blue Chevy in front of pink marble facade…

Another is to get all your receptors going full steam. Force if you must, connect, think about all the parts you have to call into service for Sight, Smell, Touch. All the vanguards of the body. Get them vibrating into the atmosphere like feelers on a millipede, like muzzle whiskers on a cat, like a capable human drinking in the abundant resources to fill you up with information. Knowledge. Instinct. Impulse. All that good stuff.

Take notes. Mental and written. Make a drawing. It all connects to the experience of the planet we’re lucky to be living on. Free. Enriching. Life. Music of the spheres. We have it in us to not miss out on a single thing.