Nature Notes - Dec/January 2019
- by James Inabinet, PhD
In the moist cool of an early afternoon in the Moon of Falling Leaves, I walk east of La Terre to the edge of the goldenrod field and sit beneath a wax myrtle, intent on seeing and coming to know the field.
The sky is mostly clear and yet the sun appears fuzzy, made so by an ice-cloud haze in the upper atmosphere. The wind is blowing lightly from the Southeast. A cold front is on the way.
Gazing into the canopy, I spy a hawk perched on a pine limb. In light of my investigations into mouse-seeing, what, I wonder, might be the gifts of a hawk? Patience perhaps; I have watched hawks sit unmoved for an hour on a tree limb gazing out over the field.
is sponsored by
Click here and scroll down for archived Nature Notes columns.
Other gifts might be sharp, strong gripping claws that can grab a mouse or snake off the ground on the fly. These and other potentialities are brought into the world and made manifest when hawks simply go about hawking, by hawk-doing.
The distant hawk cannot see in this way; he might see the bird and not wings, claws, or beak, or the mouse and not legs, ears, or eyes, or the field itself and not goldenrods, fleabanes, or bluestems. Seeing in a hawk way, effectively removed from individual plants, I would not know them.
As I sit, I can easily imagine myself soaring above the land looking down, but the imagery seems ephemeral, not so easy to produce and even harder to hold onto.
As I wonder what I see, I try to feel it as much as see it. I become increasingly immersed in the process; more complex images form; the imagery becomes easier to produce and hold. As I lose the sense of myself, I begin to imagine tree tops, pines, oaks, and magnolias, as splotches of color, mostly varied hues of green, but tinged with brown, red, and yellow here and there – it’s fall after all.
Panning around, I can see the snaking creek, mostly obscured by trees, but splotches of dirty white tell of sandy embankments along its edge. Sunlight catches on ripples reflecting brightly in the shape of asterisks [!]. The image is so real that I mentally blink under the intensity of the light.
After a while of sitting in this way, I am abruptly pulled from the reverie of soaring by the laugh of a pileated woodpecker just out of sight off to the southwest. It took a second or so to get my bearings. I remain fascinated for a moment by the flashing images of reflected sunlight on creek ripples.
I begin to consider, again, what the hawk might see, flying high above the land over the goldenrod field. Of course, he sees the whole field.
Panning farther back and away, higher and higher, what does he see? He sees La Terre! ... but not in any normal way. Seeing trees from high above is an unusual way for humans to see trees.
To make sense of the mishmash splotches of color, the participant must think. Seeing wholes requires imagination. The participant imagines how color splotches are related to each other, how they connect to produce a recognizable form of order: “tree-top-wholes.”
To imaginatively step back further is to go beyond color splotches and consider how trees and bushes are related, how they are connected to become forest wholes, swamp wholes, meadow wholes. The preoccupation of hawk-knowing is not things but relationships.
As the soaring hawk ascends higher and higher above La Terre, he sees more and more of the surrounding land. Horizons crop the view in all directions to make a mandala: the Mandala of Hawk-Knowing. As the hawk soars ever higher, this circle of seeing expands to include much of the Dedeaux community.
From higher still, the mandala expands to eventually include the entire Gulf Coast, the entire southeast, and ultimately the entire globe as horizons extend in all directions.