My daily walks in the woods continue. A few days ago, I spotted a red trillium along the trail, alone, like me, unlike its prolific white cousins that obviously prefer city traffic and not the solitary existence of the red. But the garnet blooms of the trillium filled my head and my first thought was how amazing that people hadn’t picked it yet or dogs peed on it or bikers squashed it. Like grace, it showed up when I least expected it.
Yesterday, for the first time since I started these walks, I brought my binoculars and camera (my “toys”) and spent some time fiddling with them, took photos of the trillium and a selfie next to a stick teepee somebody built a long time ago. A rock pillow was tucked inside. I saw few birds because with the binoculars, I was prepared, unlike the other day when I did not have them around my neck and heard the unmistakable song of a Blackburnian warbler, one of my annual spring favorites but difficult to see as they glean snacks from the tops of conifers. Binocularless, I waited and (forgive me) pished once but it did not seem to care and after one brief look at me went back to its business and I went back to mine watching it.
I must say that without the binoculars, I was more aware of what else was around as I hoped and waited for that teeny warbler to come within naked eye eyesight. The curled shanks of a shagbark hickory and the spent nuts at its feet, the ribbons of birch, the stable oaks holding up a fallen pine, the brown-tailed grey squirrels bouncing through branches. But yesterday, I had my equipment clattering around my neck and because I WANTED to see the Blackburnian, really see it, there were none. Like grace, that rarely shows up in the way I want it.
A Hermit Thrush flushed along the path but was not concerned enough with my presence to fly away but continued its hunting among leaves and logs. I watched it through the binoculars, pulled out the camera—still new to me—and spent a good ten minutes trying to get the bird in the viewfinder and get off some shots. The photos were mostly of twigs and leaves and afterward there was an awareness that I missed the Awareness of my past walks by focusing on one thing—the brown bird among the brown leaves, nothing else existed. This is fine for creative energy to flourish but it is a slip away from my original intent of BEING in the woods. It’s fine to use a camera and it’s fine to use paper and pencil but it’s a focussed energy and I am not ready for that yet. I am walking the trail not to take pictures of certain things or even seeing certain birds, but to open my naked soul to the totality of the moment, a vulnerability only achievable when alone and preferably without “equipment.” Grace, without expectation.