I have spent my entire life exploring nature — as a child losing himself in the woods to an adult searching for new terrains and ecosystems (sometimes still getting lost) — and have experienced so many miracles, small and large. Until recently, I believed myself reasonably aware of my seeable surroundings, being able to peer into realms others don’t see. But I was wrong.
Thanks to Jackson and Fiona, I now stop for longer spaces and focus on the shadows in the trees and water, the flits across the sky, and the burbles and calls ringing in the air. I focus new lenses to pick out details — colors, bands, sizes, beaks, feet, flight patterns, habitats, sound patterns, migration patterns, and more — and combine that with research to better read what has always been hidden between the lines. This new information enriches my life and reminds me not to take it all for granted.
An example of how I see more occurred this past weekend, right before the “winter storm” rolled in. As we crept along the icy boulders of The Glades shoreline in Scituate, we were on the lookout for harlequins. But with strong winds, rolling waves, and spitting snow, it was difficult to even see the black specks floating in the water. However, when we would finally spot one, certain colors and patterns would slowly reveal themselves. And with the aid of binoculars and camera, we were able to find more specific characteristics, such as bands and beak shape. For an hour and a half, we kept looking, seeing multiple buffleheads, black ducks, and a merganser, but never a harlequin. It wasn’t until the very end when he happened to notice two tiny, dark forms near a jetty. With time, and by zooming in on pictures we had taken, we were able to confirm that we had finally found the harlequin. Up until this year, those dark forms and many others would have either gone completely unnoticed or been dismissed as a rock, instead of the beautiful patterns of white markings found on a harlequin.
And as I begin to see more of the bird world, I also begin to see more of the world around these creatures, including the plants and trees they reside within, their assortment of foods, the tide pools and shorelines, the other species of vertebrates and invertebrates they share their lives with, and the changing climate.
I may even begin other big years. Maybe a tree or plant big year. Maybe a butterfly or beetle big year. Who knows? There’s so much to be seen that, until now, was unseen.
I just need to be mindful, to open all of my senses to the world. To do so will only make me a better person on this planet and within this universe.