"Whenever I renew a commitment to studying raptors or gulls or crows or the birds in my backyard, more are given, more show themselves... The more we prepare, the more we are "allowed" somehow to see."
~Lyanda Lynn Haupt, Crow PlanetI find Lyanda Lynn Haupt's writing on urban wildlife to be endlessly lovely and inspiring, and so many of her observations ring true in my experience, both in the urban wilderness and the "out there" wilderness. The more I've dedicated myself to studying and observing the world around me, the more I notice, whether it's watching the hummingbirds outside the window of my home, or learning the names of plants and trees I find along a trail in the remote Cascade Mountains. Each interaction with nature where I apply conscious effort toward learning and study helps to develop my eye and leaves me even more prepared to notice more of the same, further enriching my connection to, and fascination with, the natural world.
The quote above reminded me of an experience I had during a recent trip to the Methow Valley. My husband and I were walking the trails through the lonely hills at twilight, appreciating the scenery, wide-open vistas, and fresh air. My husband has a knack for finding wildlife sign, and pointed out a game trail crossing our path. Looking up slope from the trail we were traversing across a hillside, he pointed and in a hushed voice informed me there was a deer up the hill from us. I scanned the brushy hillside, its warm autumn hues turning cool in the blue twilight. It took me awhile to find the female mule deer whose large, intelligent eyes surveyed us coolly from her hiding place, where only her head was visible. Take a look at the photo above: can you find the doe?
Being in the Methow Valley, I knew we were bound to see some deer. But I didn't know how to see deer. This is something my husband has studied, but I have not. While my husband can point out a well-camoflauged deer that's several hundred yards away and barely visible, the best I can usually do is to point out a deer grazing in a grassy green field a few dozen yards away... the kind of deer you'd only miss if you were walking around with your eyes closed. Had I known how to see deer before this, how many more deer would I have seen in my wanderings? How many deer -- or other wildlife for that matter -- have I missed, lacking the knowledgeable eye attuned to spotting them?
I just love how these moments cause us to reflect on our own awareness of the world around us; how little we know and how much more there is to learn. How, after moments like this, we step out our front doors, gaze out the window, hit the trails more fully tuned in and prepared to see those delights which were previously beyond our ability to notice. And how much the richer we are for it!
Oh, and that doe? She's right here: