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.
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.
|ILLUSTRATION: Katy Farina|
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 BELIEVE IT?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?