Pay’tention

[Note: I started this post a while back, but never posted it.  Not sure why.  Here it is:]

As I sit here and write at my kitchen table, I’m cold.  Even though it’s early June and two weeks past the frost free date, the weather is still cool.  I’ve got two long sleeve shirts on but still feel on the verge of shivering.  Most people would simply click the thermostat up a few degrees and wait for the fossil fuels to be converted from chemical energy to thermal energy.  Convenience.

I feel fortunate to heat with wood.  Not only would I have to lug a load of wood inside, but I would also have to start the fire.  After the fire has been started I then have to wait some time for the wood stove to warm up, popping and pinging as the metal expands.  After the wood stove is warm, the wood stove room warms up; then the next room and, by degrees, the house warms.  It is far easier to make a pot of expresso, throw on another shirt and wait for the day to warm up.

I am fortunate to have such a connection to the planet and my place within it.  By not walking to a wall, pushing a button and waiting, I am forced to pay attention to the weather and enjoy the pleasures of a warm morning or hot cup of espresso.  As I’ve gotten older, I tend to believe that I do a good job paying attention.  However, as a father, I’ve learned that I apply a filter to the world.

Much research has been conducted on this subject.  As we evolved, our brains were able to detect patterns which alerted us to either a saber-tooth cat in the brush or simply a gentle breeze moving the leaves.  We were then able to quickly determine if we need to run or enjoy a cool breeze on a hot summer day.

While this massive filter is a great survival mechanism, I would have missed seeing the pileated woodpecker flying between trees; missed hearing the spring peepers; missed the beautiful sunrise.  I would have missed all this while trying to determine if my fight-or-flight mechanism needs to kick in.

One of the beautiful things about having a kid is being able to watch them learn and develop.  Mine is now closer to three years old than two years old.  She is not as steady on her feet as I am but that doesn’t stop her from enjoying her time in the woods.  On one of our trips to the woods, my wife pointed out that my daughter talks to herself when she is walking over rocky/rooty ground.  She says “Pay’tention, careful”.  I run in the woods.  I try to run as quickly as possible over the roots and rocks.  My daughter looks at each one, determining the best way to step on or around so she doesn’t trip.

What has she seen that I have missed?

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