Thursday, June 2, 2011

DOE EYES – Beyond Vision

Learning to be a sensitive observer of Nature is like joining an exclusive club. Once you’re in, instead of settling for “standard” experiences, the ones no one could miss, suddenly you’re privy to countless other little wonders—sights, sounds, smells and sensations Nature chooses to reveal to only a select few.

As rewarding as this membership may sound, there’s one more irresistible perk—you could call it bonus, a deal sweetener. Our physical senses can reach only so far. When you get right down to it, few of us ever manage to develop much more than an arm’s length relationship with our surroundings. So the bonus promises more intimate, more private access to Nature’s marvels using what we might call our elite senses. They’re those “little voices” we hear now and then in our hearts or our souls. Call them instincts, hunches or gut feelings, they can make the difference between an interesting experience in Nature and one that’s unforgettable.

Last summer, I was canoeing and fishing in one of my favorite places on this earth, a long, winding slough on the Wisconsin side of the St. Croix River. As I paddled around a tight bend, there, about 75 yards away, stood a young whitetail deer grazing on a grassy sand bar. I froze, except for the few subtle movements of my paddle it took to keep the canoe’s drift on line. Luckily, the wind was slight, from my back.

As I sat there transfixed, the thought possessed 
me: What had this gentle being’s experience 
been of me?

The doe clearly had heard or smelled me and looked up, deploying her huge, translucent, antenna-like ears to discern any sounds of threat. After a long staring contest, she seemed to realize I was harmless, and went back to feeding.

By this time, I’d drifted to within about 40 yards, and again the animal lifted her head, gazed at me unfazed for another 30 seconds and then calmly clambered up the steep, eight-foot bank and into the thick woods.

I sat there transfixed, and the thought possessed me: What had this gentle being’s experience been of me? I savored the sense of communion I felt with her, a hope as much as an observation that she’d been nearly as enthralled with me as I’d been with her.

I’d come now to within a few yards of the spot where the doe had been grazing. My reverie swirled into a strange new vibe. The little voice, I suppose, was animated by a combination of curiosity and an eerie sense that I was being watched. It led me, and I followed, irrationally.


Moving as slowly as I could, I turned my torso toward the top of the bank, just a few feet to my left. I scanned the thick foliage, and there, all but obscured by the leaves, were the deer’s eyes, looking right at me! Yes!, I gloated, she is curious about me!

Sharing this magical connection with a wild animal—mostly on her terms—was breathtakingly joyous for me. (I can’t speak for the deer.) And the icing on the cake was that, even after I’d paddled away, I’d managed never to give the animal cause to be afraid of me. (On hindsight, I realize she might have been better off if I had scared her, since her fear of humans is one of her best tools for survival.)

The one thing it will cost you is something a lot of people apparently still are not willing to pay: attention.

Can you think of moments in which you’ve acted purely on an inkling, persuaded by those little inner voices? I’m not talking about the sense of apprehension we all experience now and then. Those voices tend to come in the form of concerns and dreads, most often heard as declaratives or imperatives: Oh God, I’m in over my head, Don’t get on that plane! or This just doesn’t feel right!  Once in a great while, you hear of someone who credits such an admonition for saving his life, but in most cases, we learn not to trust them. Perhaps we realize how inarticulate an advisor fear can be.

No, the kind of voices I’m talking about are those of opportunity. Because they involve curiosity and wonder, they’re usually perceived as questions: Where did that sound came from?, What made that stick move?, or—the voice I acted on above—What would I do if I were that animal? I’ve learned that these more positive voices, animated not by fear, but by hope, tend to be much more trustworthy.

So do you qualify for membership in the exclusive Nature’s Keenest Observers Club? Would you like to join? Everyone’s eligible. Dues are so modest that anyone can afford them. So why’s it so exclusive? Because the one thing it will cost you is something a lot of people apparently still are not willing to pay: attention.

What do you say, are you in?


Bebbilane said...

I'm in. :) Great blog.

Jeffrey Willius said...

Hi Bebbi -- That's great news! The more the merrier!
Has intuition ever steered you to an amazing discovery?
Thanks for following OMW! Are you a blogger?

Bebbilane said...

Yes, it has steered me to many amazing wonders! The best one was the intuition to go to look at an Elk viewing site near Jacksboro, TN..

I drove by it and something told me to turn around. I drove a long way down a dirt road, so far that my cell quit working. I got scared because I realized I was a woman all alone and probably wouldn't be safe to go through a mud puddle to continue on. I turned around (when I was almost there, but didnt' know that at the time). I was driving back out and a jeep came by with a man and a boy. I waved him down and asked him how much further. He said I was almost there. I asked him if it would be okay if I followed him. So, I got to follow him and view the Elk and it was really a Godly experience for me. I have pictures and videos too. I love experiences like that and have some incredible ones.

I am a blogger. I am at

Thanks for your insights. I am enjoying your blog. Have a blessed day! :)

Jeffrey Willius said...

You're a woman after my own heart! Keep following those good instincts! I'll check out your blog asap.

Lynn Fang said...

I'm in! Recently I found I could commune with a tree, should the moment be right in this bustling city. When I visited the mountains in China, I felt a special connection with them too. I haven't had such a moment with a wild animal, but it sounds thrilling. I hope to someday soon.

And, attention is probably one of the most valuable things we have. Where we place our attention influences what we'll do, and who we'll be friends with. I'm happy to have my attention on healthy, loving things like nature, sustainability, and conscious individuals. :)

Jeffrey Willius said...

Dear Lynn -- I'm so happy to connect with you! How wonderful that you can sense the spirits of trees! You had to be moved by Robin's experiences, both with them and with critters in the rainforest.
I've not yet immersed myself to that degree, but have had a few pretty wonderful spiritual dialogs with both animals and plants.

Lynn Fang said...

Hi Jeffrey, I was totally influenced by Robin! Reading about her experience connecting with the trees seemed at once real and surreal - if it's true we have this connection to living things, then Robin's not the only one that can commune with trees. I had to test it out for myself, so I opened myself up to receive the connection. :)

Jeffrey Willius said...

Dear Lynn -- Good for you for having the faith to see that possibility! I struggle with how to describe such connections to my broad audience without many of them raising their eyebrows. Ultimately all those of us who've experienced these connections can say is "You had to be there."

Robin Easton said...

YES!!!! This is very, very beautiful, Jeffrey. I LOVE this post. As to these connections, communions, communications "with" is WHO we are....As a species we've just forgotten that. Once we remember, then we "re-member" or become a member with all The Rest of Life. ....And....these communications and connections become a way of life, daily, hourly... Anything less that this feels as if we have lost our own soul, as if we are no longer "Home", it becomes frightening and we are alarmed as if like a new born baby torn from it's mother's loving arms, its source.

There really is NO separation for me. There really is NO separation for any of us. We only "think" there is. I HAVE to be in constant communion "with" or die.... It is WHY I was literally dying of a precancerous condition before I went into the rainforest. For me, it was "plug in" or die.... Once I plugged in, I immediately began the journey of naturally, effortlessly healing. Of course.

The food that we eat is not the only food we need. Sure it can keep our bodies alive, but without connection to our "Extended Self", all of life around us, we can still starve and eventually die.

It amazes me more and more every year, every day, how much the natural world around me IS me.... I've completely lost myself to it and do not know any other "Self" but it.... I am it, We are it....

Thank you for being a BEAUTIFUL soul who reflects SO much truth, feeling, and beauty to me....and of course so many others. Love, Robin. xo

Jeffrey Willius said...

Robin, it's always a delight to see evidence of your presence here at OMW! I don't know of another person who feels—who KNOWS—this sense of communion with wild critters more than you. And you're the most heartfelt, articulate of advocates for it. Thank YOU for your truth and beauty, always an inspiration!

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