I am trying to improve my noticing skills and I am also meant to be taking more exercise. The noticing will be helpful for writing and for coaching, and the exercise will be helpful for life. Walking is easier, I find, if I have a camera in my hand. Instead of seeming sluggish when I stop every few steps, it is possible to appear creative and artistic. Thus I went this morning to Quiet Waters Park to notice nature close-up and to take the air.
The outing reminded me of Sunday afternoons when I was a child. We’d bundle into my father’s Ford Capri and go to Belvoir Park, or Cavehill or Tollymore, all within easy reach of home in Belfast. The idea was probably to encourage me to spend time outdoors and away from a book, and to have my rather more boisterous brother and sister tire themselves out. I would hold my mother’s hand and we’d look at plants and flowers close-up, bringing them home to press or for me to show off at school. I can see her now wearing her green anorak and ski pants, and feel the dryness of her houseworked palm. I was usually too hot in an aran sweater under my anorak and my wellies would chafe the back of my heels. My socks would somehow always worm their way down to the sole of my foot, forming sweaty accordian pleats underneath my arches. Really uncomfortable. The leaf mold often made me sneeze.
My brother and sister would climb over tree trunks, throw sticks and get my dad to teach them how to skim stones. Their coats and sweaters would be quickly discarded. They had proper sneakers. I still don’t own a pair. My dad usually brought his camera. Perhaps he, like me, needed some reason to walk, to look, and to stop, although pulling focus must have been difficult once he was loaded up with quilted coats and raggedy home knits from offspring 2 and 3.
There are still no leaves on the trees in Maryland, and that means that most of today’s noticing took place at ground level. I saw vines that looked like horses, a fungus shaped like a teapot, and green spores forming cathedral spires on a battered tree stump. I heard a wood pigeon and saw a chaffinch, so much bigger than its British cousin. Quiet Waters. In my head I sang the 23rd Psalm as I walked and noticed and snapped. My soul was very much restored.