At around age thirty, I learned to see, and it had nothing to do with art. It was when my wife's cousin Joe invited me to go birding for the first time.
"Sure - I'll try anything once," I said.
This was easy to say because there is no danger in looking at birds. And though it was not even true - what I said - because dozens of activities would have had me running the other way, it felt like the right thing to say.
We drove into the heart of Miami-Dade County. You could see the condominiums beyond, I remember, so this was hardly a primeval forest.
But I was a step away. Just one step. And it was enough. I was looking in places that I never thought to look before. And when I looked, I saw. For the first time.
And I remember on that first walk I stopped dead in my tracks because of a bird unlike any I had ever seen before. It was large. With its wings spread, it seemed about the size of a small dog. To me it looked prehistoric. Its bat-like wings, black with white dripping at its edges, were spread at its sides like sails, its neck was curved and twisted like a snake, and its beak was long and pointed, daggerlike. In the heart of the city. One step away. This creature that I had never known existed, until the age of thirty.
It was an Anhinga. Photos of anhingas are here and here.
Since then, whenever I step outside, I look around. I listen. The long dreary drive on the Florida Turnpike is now interesting. There are owls at my home now and then, and hawks in my neighborhood. They had been here all the time, of course. I just hadn't noticed.
The other day when I woke up I encountered (yes, that's the right word) the silver vase on the floor in my living room, the same vase I'd walked passed a hundred times before. The reflection of colors and light was stunning. I rushed to grab my paints, and the result is the picture above. By the time I finished painting, the light had changed, and the vase was just a vase again.
Everywhere everyday matters are special.
When my nephew Jake and I decided to paint together, we had to look around the kitchen for perhaps thirty seconds before I found a fascinating subject to paint. His sketch is in the last post, and mine is here.
So just as my wife's cousin Joe invited me, I extend the same invitation to you: Take one step. Open your eyes, and look, and see..
3 years ago