By Susan Vasquez
What price do you pay for a memorable walk? Most times, when I walk, my eyes are aimed safely downward. But I pay a price for that view: I lose a , here-in-this-moment-lost-in-the-next chance to see the spectacular view above. My reward is safety. I see most of those stubby clefts that might cause a fall. And since I fall often in life, downward is a good view for my wellbeing.
On my usual safe walks, looking down past my toes, I see the shore birds. They stroll along our plentiful tide line, arguing over food, but without a heartfelt clamor. They may squabble, but in the end, they share the bounty. It’s the wind that ruffles their feathers.
I also see the glorious transition of rock to pebble to sand. On packed wetness near the rolling waves, with my eyes aimed downward, I take a geological journey through time – sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic lay themselves at my feet. It is nature’s best classroom as I walk along this learning curve of salty water licking the roughness from stone.
Strolling with my safe step, I see what I’ve seen before. Maybe the walk has become habit, but it still contains some little magic. Mist lifts from the incoming tides and floats past my feet. I step around the shore birds’ droppings, having been warned by past experience and present sight. Tangled ropes of Giant Kelp, Dead Man’s Bootlaces, Bull Whip Kelp, and Turkish Towel wrap themselves around the tide, which comes and goes every day, just like me.
Because I walk this shore daily, a routine litany of views repeats along my path. Stones, sand, seaweed, shore birds. As my eyes aim downward, keeping me safe, I see usual life-assuring sights.
Then the unusual call of a sea hawk interrupts me. I haven’t heard it often, and the sound itself pulls my eyes to the sky. There it is: a seasonal newcomer to the neighborhood.
I stop and watch as the young Osprey dives toward the water, at the same time flapping wings and stretching claws. This new king of the tide comes away with a shining, struggling fish, then flies away to the tall eucalyptus. As I continue to lift my eyes, I see the fish tail protest its tragedy, and the Osprey settle onto the tallest limb of the tree.
I change my trail and follow. ‘Lift up,’ I tell my feet, unused to this path. Since my sight is engaged in the sky escapade, I can’t guarantee my own safety. When I get nearer the eucalyptus, I see that the Osprey has begun its meal. Its head bends for a bite, pulls away with a satisfied tug. Then, against the sky view, I see another fresh sight.
Stepping into the cluster of trees, I am greeted by monarch butterflies. Into the tall branches they flit, in and out of the sunlight, delightful and light-hearted against the feast that is occurring three floors up in this small forest. I count 25 butterflies along one small branch.
I have been aiming my sight skyward for quite a while now, and haven’t yet fallen. At times, I feel dizzy. But nature’s action is happening against the sky today, so that is where I must look.
So often in life, the spectacular is mine for the moment, and gone too quickly. I won’t experience it, if I always choose the safe route, eyes aimed cautiously downward, saving myself from the harm I think is there, but forever closing my view to happenings I may not even imagine. Fabulous happenings like ospreys and Monarch butterflies.
Susan Vasquez has taken walks in many of the world’s most interesting spots, but especially enjoys her strolls around Estero Bay. She is the author of four books and blogs at One Small Walk.