Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Enjoying the Common Finds, in the Local Fields

No pretense.  I love the adrenaline rush when sighting a rare bird never before viewed through my trusty 10x42’s.  I believe it is a part of our human nature to stop and give awe to the extraordinary.  For some of us, our focus is drawn to Mother Nature’s creation; for others, the draw is to the great works of human art, architecture, and engineering wonders of the world; and for some many-faceted individuals, it is both.

Regardless the form of creation, it seems both the business of life--and the busyness of life, can put blinders on observation.  December seems a prime candidate for the marketing of busyness.  I am not immune.
But sometimes I find the greatest pleasure in pausing and giving praise for the common finds in the local field.  It is so easy for me to give a passing glance to a Northern Cardinal—or to another human being, and miss the extraordinary beauty of their unique nature. 

I stood in the check-out line of my local “Super Target” this morning, with only four items in my grocery cart, giving me fair access to the “20 items or less” line. For once in my life I waited patiently while the woman ahead of me placed some thirty or more items on the black-rubber conveyer belt, headed toward the experienced hands of the middle-aged female Checker of this line. 

I was wonderfully rewarded for my patience, as it opened my blinders to observation.  As the lady ahead of me unloaded her bounty of Christmas-genre items (chatting absently to the Checker without looking at her), the Checker looked at me, made eye contact, and then looked up at the blatant “20 items or less” sign. The Checker then looked back at me and gave me the most subtle of eye rolls and shoulder rolls that John Stewart would envy, and that made Woody Allen famous.  I was rewarded with a wonderful first-hand sighting of this Checker’s sense of humor, and her unique (and silent) apology to me. It took all my self control not to laugh with delight—but I did reward the Checker with a smile that applauded her playful personality.  Today, she was my beautiful find, the common species in the local field.

This Fall I photographed other beautiful finds, all common species in local fields (that I could photograph without causing a scene):

At South Llano River State Park, I sat and watched this female Northern Cardinal enjoy an afternoon soak:

And suddenly this Grey Fox, common to the hill country, moved through and surprised me (and I surprised her, as our eyes met from my ground-perched position):

At Pedernales Falls State Park an Inca Dove enjoyed a sunny spot to glean her food:

At Brazos Bend State Park a Black-bellied Whistling Duck, and her bounty of youngsters, gave me a delightful example of faces that could use a good washing:

And at the National Butterfly Center in my RGV backyard, I took this photo of the commonly found White Peacock butterfly, and delighted that it was “mostly” in focus:

There is much to enjoy in the most common finds in our local fields—if only we pause from the business, and busyness, of life.  Whether observing human nature—or other, perhaps more beautiful species of Mother Nature’s creation, observation is a gift to be celebrated in December, as well as the other eleven months of the year.


  1. I love it! Both kinds of sightings . . . the bird kind and the human kind. Thanks for the reminder! And your photos are amazing. I was going to say that the fox was my favorite but then I saw the rest!

  2. Lovely photographs! I think you're going to love it once you start processing raw image data. I sure enjoy your postings!

  3. I must admit never to have received an adrenaline rush from a rare bird or butterfly and probably never will. I am one of those people who make birders cringe when they hear me say, "Oh look at the pretty red bird". I do, however, appreciate reading your magnificently written nature encounters.

    What I do get an adrenaline rush about (besides the ....well never mind) is the human interaction you write about so often. I guess being a patient and trained observer has taught you to look for richness of content even in a line at Target. That is what I enjoy so much about your posts. Of course the pictures are magnificent and I do not have to spend hours in contorted positions amongst the pests of nature to enjoy your passion.

  4. It is amazing to me that you can find beauty in things that appear mundane to many of us (referencing the incident at Target), just as fascinating as true works of art. I am a lover of the arts. I find art to be mesmerizing. Art does for my soul what nature does for yours. Don’t get me wrong, I also love nature and God’s creations, but I doubt very seriously that I’d be able to sit quietly long enough to capture the beauty of a fox! You never cease to amaze me.


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