Novice

When was the last time you were afraid to make an observation out loud because you were going to sound ignorant?

I am at a place in my life where that is rarely the case. But this morning, I felt it! Humbling.

My husband and I got out early for a walk at one of our favorite parks, Huntley Meadows Park in Virginia. Only its not a meadow but a wooded path that leads to a long, looping boardwalk through marshland. It is a serious nature sanctuary and it brings out all the experts…

The bird watchers and the photographers.

Now, I know a few more plant names than the average person, as well as insects, birds, animals, you get the idea. I remembered the cardinal flower and knew when I said “hibiscus” out loud that I was wrong (it was rose swamp mallow- a wonderful name and worth retaining.) I recognize the egret and the heron and the red-winged blackbird. But that is nothing to these telescopic-lens toting folks. This is a serious bunch clad in khaki with lots of pockets, where if your camera lens extends only six inches from your belly you are just a dilettante. Some have lenses half their height, others haul a wagon of gear.

I appreciate someone telling me to look at that big leaf by that brown topped plant, leading my eye to a bright green sunning frog. I benefit from the photographer motionless by the rail, guiding my eye to the sliding snake. I do look where the phalanx of mega-cameras on tripods are aimed, to see the blue heron feeding.

But as I try to figure out what that that lump in the water is I find I speak quietly to my husband, away from the clusters of people, as we guess it’s a muddy stump, no its moving it must be a beaver, no a muskrat, no its actually (as it starts to slide and raises a head and stretches out a claw) a turtle! And, as it goes as you learn by observing, then we are seeing many many turtles in the murk, even two- er, copulating. Which is something I never saw before and I notice no one is photographing!

I’m also wondering about the little bursts of silt rising up from the activity of I-do-not-know-what under the dark water. I see little clusters of tiny shelled creatures on the mud flats and wonder about them, as well as about all of the teeming life under the silt and mud that we do not catch even a glimpse of.

This park has a Facebook page and the photos posted there are incredible. But I will not be laying on the boardwalk for a half hour, like the long gray-beard who barely made it back up to standing, nor will I be buying gear. I will be looking where the bird-watchers and photographers are looking, listening to the names they call what they see and learning a bit. And I’ll also be remembering to look in the other direction, to look close and look far, to think my own thoughts and wonder my own wonderings.

The veterans
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3 thoughts on “Novice

  1. I like your observation on the turtles. Those who respect nature and see animals doing what comes naturally don’t feel the need to photograph. Conversely, there are others who would see those same turtles, laugh and use the more colloquial verbiage of the act and would have had a video on TikTok faster than I can write this comment.

    It’s my opinion if you’re not a novice at several points in your life you’re not learning and growing. So it’s a good thing, not to be hesitant of. Then again I work in tech where’s there is something new every other day, So, that novice feeling happens more often.

    And yes, learn others thoughts and options, but always be cognizant of your own.

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  2. I guess it is nice to have all of the gear and focus it on one spot, however I can’t feel that by foing this you miss do much of what is happening around you. I would rather walk noticing whats happening instead of focusing on only one spot.

    Like

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