Wish I'd Said It

Weeds are flowers too - once you get to know them.

- A. A. Milne

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Another Excerpt From: Walking With Benny (#219)

Watched a grackle in the backyard gathering nesting material just a few moments ago. He’d hop along (you’ll understand how I came to be certain of his gender in a moment) gathering bits of dried stalks of grass or weeds. When he had two or three bits in his beak, he’d open it again to gather more and drop the ones he had - thereby having to start over. I watched him do this several times.

Now you know how I knew.

It was easy to picture Mrs. Grackle tapping her foot and pointing to her watch when he finally appeared at the nest-to-be with something to contribute.

At the same time, about 10' from the grackle and deeper into the shade of the SW corner of the yard, I watched a cowbird engaged in what I first thought was the same behaviour as the grackle. It was walking slowly but purposefully, pecking over here and then over there. After a handful of pecks with no visible result, I figured he was looking for food, not nesting material.

And now, as I write this a few minutes later, I recall that cowbirds always lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. Duh. They’re never concerned about finding nesting material.

Animal behaviour is fascinating.


Spawning is just about done. The trout population is sparse now, and scattered. But the warm, dry spell has lowered and cleared the water, so the ones which remain are easier to spot.

Some people, even with sunglasses, sometimes seem totally unable to see these torpedo-shaped shadows. Unless I’m fishing, I never wear sunglasses while walking, and still, I have no problems spotting fish. I suppose decades of squinting at water gives me something of an edge.

Bumped into, and chatted with a couple of folks along the way this morning. Both expressed disappointment at missing the peak of the trout run when the fish were jumping at the dam. One woman in particular, said she hadn’t seen a “single fish” in the last 10 days.

As we spoke, without even turning my head much, I could see a pair of rainbow trout tucked behind a boulder not 20 feet away. Along this particular half-kilometre stretch of creek, I could probably see two to eight fish every hundred metres, if I was looking for them. Two weeks ago was three times that number, last week, twice.

She hadn’t seen a single one.

I think there’s a lot of folks like her. Folks who can't seem to see, even when they’re purportedly looking.

First of all, most of them aren’t really looking at all. If not actually accompanied by someone and chatting, or strolling with their iPod cranked up, they’re busy inside their heads thinking clamorous  thoughts about work or the children or finances or sex or medical problems.

Their inner noise and busyness, in effect, deadens their senses. They see well enough not to bump into trees but they don’t see the squirrels or birds among the branches. They see the water splashing over the rocks but they don’t hear the music of the creek.

And at least some of them aren’t seeing fish that are finning in plain sight.


Hilary said...

This reminds me of the chatty couple near your place who never even noticed the Great Blue Heron which walked across the path just a few feet in front of them. Neither of them missed a conversational beat, and ever looked up.

I also have to admit that I see a lot more since walking with a camera than I ever did with an iPod. But I was skinnier then.. sigh!

Unknown said...

I took my dog, Alberta, outside last night for a pee break, and heard the biggest deer ever clamoring through the trees not 10 feet from us. I never did see him, but heard him through the trees for a good while. I see their path through my woods but rarely do they come up this close to the house. It was so cool, nearly a full moon. I was loving life at that moment. And guess what? I forgot all about it until I read your offering. Wanna know why I forgot? Because I'm writing a paper on three ancient Greeks and how they explained how to get closer to God. Ain't life ironic?

Bruce Robinson said...

Man, I need a walk in a stream!

Hey, Frank! She couldn't be prettier, but does that camera make Hilary's butt look big?

Travis Erwin said...

Great now you have me wanting to sneak off to New Mexico and do some trout fishing even though it's still a bit early for optimal fishing.

Althea said...

Sometimes Frank...sometimes...my head just won't shut up...I'm hoping you'll tell me that age will bring a little more peace and quiet. And you'll either tell me that, or you'll tell me otherwise...

And Hilary will tell me that chocolate is a darn good thing.

Lori A. Basiewicz said...

This morning I was so lost in my own headspace, I drove a half mile before I realized the road I was on was not the road I was supposed to be traveling. I think my subconscious was trying to help me escape.

Frank Baron said...

Yeah, Hil. Those two were hermetically sealed in oblivion. Were you really skinnier then? I hadn't noticed. :)

Pam, ironic - and then some. ;) Nifty auditory encounter for you. Thanks for telling us about it. :)

Bruce, Hilary could pack twin SLRs in her hip pockets and still look svelte! (Gotta stockpile those brownie points. Never know when the next faux pas is gonna happen.)

Travis, any day on the water is a good day. Go have some fun! Thanks for the visit.

Yes, Althea. At a certain point in our path (if we're fortunate enough to get that far) Father Time requires that we slow down. If necessary, he'll hobble us with arthritis or gout. I know what it's like to have a noisy mind too. Only fishing used to quiet mine. Tried that? How about yoga? Music? It's good to find some regular quiet/slow time. Even a young pup like you. :)

Lori, it does indeed sound like your subconscious was trying to direct you along another path. Might be worth mulling in some quiet, natural setting. Thanks for the visit. :)

Charlie said...

I would like to go for a walk in the woods, but as Frank is well aware, I live in a part of the world where large carnivourous cats consider humans a delicacy.

Mind you, around here venturing any distance from the influence of people does cause one's senses to be on high alert, so you tend to notice every little thing and sometimes you're halfway home before you realize that slobbering beast you heard crashing through the underbrush behind you was a deer. :)

Dianne said...

I think I may start calling you the 'trout whisperer'

One of the gifts of being interested in photography is that even without the camera attached to my face I find myself seeing scenes wherever I go

Grayquill said...

You and my son have simialr eyes, where as my eyes are more like the ladies who hadn't seen a fish for 10 days. My son and I can be walking along the same river and he will even try pointing out fish here and there but do you think I can see them? Not! IrriTATING! Hmmm...maybe that is why he always out fishes me.
I had never heard of a crackle before. I will have to google an image I guess.
I love your second to the last paragraph - I learn from you everytime I read your writing.

Grayquill said...

You and my son have simialr eyes, where as my eyes are more like the ladies who hadn't seen a fish for 10 days. My son and I can be walking along the same river and he will even try pointing out fish here and there but do you think I can see them? Not! IrriTATING! Hmmm...maybe that is why he always out fishes me.
I had never heard of a crackle before. I will have to google an image I guess.
I love your second to the last paragraph - I learn from you everytime I read your writing.

Skunkfeathers said...

LOL...I'm so-so at spotting trout in a mountain stream. But some folks look and expect to see Madison Avenue-style advertising: flashing neon signage, pointing out where the fish are, with the fish themselves doing somersaults, backflips, and shouting "me..pick ME!".

I was telling a humorous story about a trout farm in the mountains, when a passing person stopped and asked, in total seriousness, if I thought it was unethical for people to herd trout like cattle....because I was at work, I had to bite my lip...

Leah J. Utas said...

I've occasionally seen a fish. You're right about people so taken with their own selves they don't see the world around them. When I'm out hiking or fishing or hanging out in nature, the longer I am out the less I want to hear what anyone has to say about anything.

Frank Baron said...

Don't feel bad, Charlie. Deer can be darn dangerous, especially during the rut. ;)

Dianne, I've been called a Fish Whisperer a time or ten -- but trout are one of my specialties, so why not? And I hear you about the camera. I think quite a few folks have learned the value of slowing down and really looking when they get semi-serious about photography.

GQ, I suspect you're being modest about your fish-spotting ability. And I think kids always out-fish their old man. It's in their contract or something. Thanks for the visit and kind words. I appreciate both.

That's funny, Skunky. :) Herding trout would be way trickier than herding cats. I'll bet your lip was sore for a week.

Leah, silence is indeed golden, especially when communing with Ma Nature. Thanks for stopping by. :)

Barbara Martin said...

Keeping my mind quiet has been easy since I took up meditation.

Being aware of one's surroundings while walking has always been my forte especially when the terrain is varied and unfamiliar. There's a creek near my new place that I like to walk alongside to see if I can spot new birds or one of many pairs of mallards that paddle in the water. Once in awhile I come cross a feral cat enjoying a recent kill.

Frank Baron said...

Sounds interesting, Barbara. And a lot more interesting than tromping along city streets. Thanks for the visit.

Suldog said...

Great observation (which is appropriate, of course.) On the other hand, some folks know where to look and have a sort-of instinct built up from years of being in the area. I know, living in Boston, that I can traverse certain unsavory areas of the city and know perfectly well when I'm safe and when I'm not safe, while others would be swiveling their heads around constantly and not picking up the same signs I do.

Bernita said...

"Inner noise."
That is so true.
And they miss so much of beauty.

Frank Baron said...

Yep, Suldog. I think if you spend enough time in any environment you develop an instinctive sense of what's "normal." And any deviance from that is picked up by one sense or another. Thanks for following Hilary's finger-pointing. ;)

They do indeed, Bernita. It's a shame. Thanks for the visit.

Kappa no He said...

Don't get me started on people walking and texting on their phones. Once I saw two girls on their bikes run over a 5 foot long snake and not miss a beat. I screamed SNAKE! Which is "hebi" in Japanese. But "hebi" also can mean "heavy". I don't know but they completely ignored me. *sadface*

Frank Baron said...

Terrie, don't feel badly. You did your best. I was blessed today. While out for a drive, I saw a cat trotting across a lawn with a bird in its jaws. I stopped the car and marched towards the cat. It stood riveted, with a struggling grackle in its jaws, watching my approach. When I was about 15 feet away, I raised both arms and clapped my hands loudly, while staring at the cat and continuing to move purposely toward it.

I'm pleased to say the cat immediately dropped the bird which flew off to a nearby tree. Amazingly, it appeared unharmed. I walked towards it and shook my finger, telling it to be more careful, then got back in the car and drove away.

I love happy endings. :)

June said...

How unfortunate for some people, who have excellent social skills, for they miss so much.