Thursday, April 20, 2006

Seeing the Unseen

My sister is feeling some better since last week. She slowed down. She stopped pushing quite so hard to get everything done that she thought needed to be done. She rested. On Wednesday she felt well enough to hike. It was warm. She likes that dry heat. It makes her feel better. So she took off on one of her favorite hikes in the hills of Ventura County in southern California. What kind of terrain is that? Typically dry, arid, semi-desert. Rattlesnake country. Mountain lion habitat.

The phone rang while I was making dinner. It was my sister, breathless. She said, "Hey I just want to give you a heads up. I'm hiking with Jesse (her 10 month old Great Dane) and someone told us that they just saw a Mountain Lion." I realize she's calling me in case she disappears in the mountains alone. It's smart to call, but jeez, I'm 1000 miles away making dinner. I sputter, Okay, so are you heading back down? What are you doing? She says, continuing her uphill climb, "We'll be okay. What do you think Jess would do if she saw a lion?" I say it's no contest. The mountain lion would win. A male can weigh up to 200 pounds. Jesse is a big girl, probably already 125 pounds, but young and not aggressive. I tell her it would be a good idea to walk back down instead of continuing her ascent. My sister is back to her old self. She says she's continuing the hike. I ask her to call me when she gets safely back down to her car.

This isn't a mountain lion post. It's a post about seeing. How much do we see of what's around us? How free is our attention? How safe are we when we take off into the hills? How much do we take in of the world around us? I think seeing is a practiced art. It's about quieting the chattering mind and slowing down to the present moment. No thoughts of the job, the dog, the kids, the bills. Just you and all the sights and sounds around you. What do you see when you look around? Wildlife is quiet. It often doesn't want to be seen. Can you see it?

There is a hawk in this photograph. I watched it for a while on Tuesday when we were out on dpr's favorite clamming beach. It had been riding the winds when it gently lowered itself onto a branch. I couldn't see it after it landed, but I had been watching it, I knew it was there . If you click the photo, you'll see a close up of where it landed.
There's an eagle in this tree. I saw it when I took a solo walk Wednesday. dpr has just started the cedar siding project, so I walked the Larry Scott Memorial trail alone. I almost passed this eagle right by. The photograph is a 12x optical shot. Click on it to see the eagle close-up.

I've always been a proponent of being prepared when you hike miles into the hills: A backpack with matches, knife, plastic tarp, first-aid kit, water, energy bars. And, if you take your quiet, observant self with you, it's more likely you'll have a safe journey. Lucky for my sister, her trip was safe. She did run into other people on the trail who said they had also seen the cougar. What would you do if you were taking a pleasure hike and there was an increased possibility that your path would cross with a cougar's?

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