When I was a kid I looked forward every week to the big intro…. Mutual of Omaha Presents, Wild Kingdom. I recall it with such fondness. Learning about animals and traveling, through the magic of the vacuum tube, to far away lands with exotic animals was by far a high point of my week as a kid.
These days the vacuum tube has given way to YouTube, and pretty much everything is available at the click of a mouse or a tap of the screen. The magic for me these days comes from simply opening my door and stepping outside. I live in a rural area. We have no neighbors nearby except those dwelling in woods or fields.
Yesterday morning I drove the crew in to school, one car was in the shop. While hubby got the Times my daughter and I waited in the car. Then she said rather casually, “Hey Mama, look an eagle.” Sure enough there was a Bald Eagle hunting for breakfast on the river. This was the second Bald Eagle I’ve seen in less than a week. My daughter followed up with, “I don’t know why you get so excited to see an eagle.” Now we’ve read Silent Spring as a family reading so she knows the plight of the eagles in the mid 70’s. She just could not imagine that seeing eagles was out of the ordinary.
The past few days I’ve been thinking of all the wildlife I am privileged to witness on a regular basis. From the black bear whose hind end I saw shuffling into the forest while the dog went haywire, to the beavers working on their dam. The ever present white tailed deer and cottontail rabbits. Being awakened by owls in the night is a fairly regular occurrence. Petting a garter snake who was still slow in the morning chill while picking berries or being called out by my husband to see a large red snake (probably a redbellied snake) only to stand there wanting as he says, “Ooops there it goes.” It is a gift, and not one I take for granted.
When I was teaching Environmental Education to inner city youths I would take them on walks and attempt to show them some of the wild offerings. It was rare indeed for us to actually encounter animals as the kids were l.o.u.d. Often times even when walking with adults I see things they do not. Do I posses some special vision? Well, yes, in fact I do. I learned a long time ago a technique called ‘wide angle vision’. Instead of focusing the eyes as we do to say, read this print, I open to using peripheral vision. A good way to practice is to spread out your arms and wiggle your fingers until you can see them. Another ‘trick’ for spotting wild life (aside from the very obvious quiet required) is to keenly pay attention to horizontal lines. Most of the natural world is vertical. If your eyes catch a horizontal line off in the woods say, it is likely the back of a deer say, or some other more interesting critter….it could also be a fallen tree though. And while I would agree that one of the most important things needed for witnessing wild life is access to their habitat and regular visitation of said habitat… Sometimes it is literally happenstance. The eagle the other morning was nothing more than a gift. Sometimes all that is required of us is to simply look up!