Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

I walked Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge for the first time in years today and had a delightful time, despite sporadic bursts of machine gun fire and thudding booms of artillery pieces drifting across the valley from Ft. Lewis.

For a very short time I had a chance to experience this area the way pioneers must have experienced it, nature at its most beautiful.

I really didn’t have too many expectations; I just wanted to try out a new 400 mm telephoto lens, the one I got to take bird pictures.

Strangely enough, one of the first birds I encountered was a Kingfisher, a bird I didn’t even know existed in the Pacific Northwest until I read a Tacoma Tribune article about Point Defiance Park last Sunday. Once I saw the article , I decided that I would get a picture of each of the birds they showed.

It’s not as good a picture as the one above or some others I took and will probably post later, but I was simply delighted the picture I took of a bird sitting on top a dead snag turned out to be the very bird I most wanted to get a picture of. Hopefully it will follow the recent pattern of the Western Tiger Swallowtail and the Hummingbird, with gradually improving pictures until I get one I’m really happy with and can move on in pursuit of another perfect moment.

For Life I Had Never Cared Greatly

Though I can’t completely identify with Hardy’s “For Life I Had Never Cared Greatly,” it certainly does ring true in some aspects. Since it was written nearly a hundred years ago and still describes the general pattern of my life, I wonder if it depicts an archetypal pattern:

FOR LIFE I HAD NEVER CARED GREATLY

For Life I had never cared greatly,
As worth a man’s while;
Peradventures unsought,
Peradventures that finished in nought,
Had kept me from youth and through manhood till lately
Unwon by its style.

In earliest years–why I know not –
I viewed it askance;
Conditions of doubt,
Conditions that leaked slowly out,
May haply have bent me to stand and to show not
Much zest for its dance.

With symphonies soft and sweet colour
It courted me then,
Till evasions seemed wrong,
Till evasions gave in to its song,
And I warmed, until living aloofly loomed duller
Than life among men.

Anew I found nought to set eyes on,
When, lifting its hand,
It uncloaked a star,
Uncloaked it from fog-damps afar,
And showed its beams burning from pole to horizon
As bright as a brand.

And so, the rough highway forgetting,
I pace hill and dale
Regarding the sky,
Regarding the vision on high,
And thus re-illumed have no humour for letting
My pilgrimage fail.

In college it was definitely cool to be “cool,? to talk as if life meant little and nothing was too important. It certainly wasn’t cool to care too much about a girl, or at least to let her know that you cared a lot.

In the crowd I ran with, a certain sarcasm was de rigueur, and sarcasm came easily, probably too easily, for me. Confronted with the turbulent 60’s, my idealism easily turned to cynicism, and after a tour in Vietnam and a year working as a caseworker, I became even more cynical.

I don’t think it was until I was 30, after I had my first child, that I rediscovered the joy in my life, as if I had returned to a childhood. Sharing a child’s joy for life leaves little room for cynicism, or other such nonsense.

Rediscovering nature, though, particularly re-connecting with hiking, as “I pace hill and dale/ Regarding the sky,? did even more to restore my “vision on high? and left me more enamored of life than ever.

As I age, life no longer seems so much a journey as an arrival. No longer worried about some illusory “future? that never appears, I’m pleased to experience today, right now. And that’s made all the difference, as recorded on these pages.

Hardy’s “At a Country Fair”

Most people I’ve recommended Hardy to seem to feel that he is “too depressing,” and I can certainly understand that reaction. Looked at too closely, life may well be depressing. What’s truly depressing, though, is how few people seem to realize there is something they can do about how depressing it is.

We don’t have to be bound by our forefathers’ customs. We don’t have to follow archaic rules that determine how we live our lives. We don’t have to have ridiculous expectations that allow others to exploit our weaknesses. Most of all, we don’t have to be led around blindly by those in power, those who most benefit from our inability to see the world for what it is:

AT A COUNTRY FAIR

At a bygone Western country fair
I saw a giant led by a dwarf
With a red string like a long thin scarf;
How much he was the stronger there


The giant seemed unaware.

And then I saw that the giant was blind,
And the dwarf a shrewd-eyed little thing;
The giant, mild, timid, obeyed the string
As if he had no independent mind,

Or will of any kind.

Wherever the dwarf decided to go
At his heels the other trotted meekly,
(Perhaps–I know not–reproaching weakly)
Like one Fate bade that it must be so,

Whether he wished or no.

Various sights in various climes
I have seen, and more I may see yet,
But that sight never shall I forget,
And have thought it the sorriest of pantomimes,

If once, a hundred times!

While Hardy may well have been inspired to write the poem by observing this depressing scene, he probably doesn’t intend for us to merely become depressed at the thought of some mean-spirited dwarf leading a gentle giant around rural England in some freak show. Hell, most of us can get depressed just looking at our own lives; we don’t need to imagine depressing scenes in far away countries.

No, he wanted us to realize that we are the victims in a gigantic freak show, where, instead of inheriting the kingdom, the meek and timid are led around by some “shrewd-eyed” Karl Rove and his ilk, as if we “had no independent mind,/ Or will of any kind.”

It’s not “Fate bade that it must be so” but, rather, our own fatalistic expectations that tell us that we have no power to change our condition, that we must blindly follow those who claim to see the light, who promise we shall be rewarded on another plane, while they, of course, are rewarded on this plane. Never realizing our true strength nor that truth can only reside within ourselves in the here and now, we continue to be led by others until we begin to follow our own light.

Framed

The true
Art
of Seeing

isn’t
seeing
at all,

rather,
it’s not
seeing.

Framing
what you
see,

choosing
not
to see

what you don’t
want to
see,

ignoring
the dilapidated
building

behind
the lily,
the one

desperately needing
a coat
of paint

choosing,
instead,
to focus

your attention,
your lens,
this moment

on this
Lily,
beauty full.