Nature Notes - March 2021
- Story by James Inabinet
“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” — W.B. Yeats
When I go out into the forest, I try to sharpen my senses in order to see more. By seeing more, more can be gleaned from the chaos of sense impressions received. By gleaning more, I become more “in-tune” with what’s happening in the natural world around me, more a part of it, more in harmony with the place and its beings. Such a feeling, though desirable, seems rare these days.
Over the years, I have developed a ritual of sorts around this idea of seeing more, one that demands that I look at the world right in front of me in different ways.
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The first thing I do in each direction is sit quietly for a minute, in silence, with my eyes closed so I can calm myself and thus open myself to whatever nature will gift me. I am amazed at how it changes me.
When I am facing east, I consider the spirit-keeper of this place: a mouse. I picture myself a mouse, my nose close to the ground. My whiskers inevitably touch what I see as I weave through grasses and leaves. This mouse way is a feeling way too; I feel as I go. Confined to a world underfoot, tiny paws touching the ground, I know very little about the world at large. Mouse-seeing requires what Zen practitioners call beginner’s mind. It’s an innocent view that assumes nothing, knows nothing. It sees everything fresh and new. I don’t stay on any one thing too long anyway, to know it well. Touching this... then on to that... then what is this? As an earth-centered creature, I strive to stay grounded, staying with what I see, avoiding flights of fancy and the errors of thinking, at least at first.
When I am facing south, I consider the spirit-keeper of this place: a hawk. I picture myself a hawk, whose nose is rarely close to the ground. Sitting up on a limb, far away from the details of what I see, I scan the whole field. In that way, I don’t lose the forest for the trees. By being removed from what I see, hawk-seeing is not warm like the mouse, but cold, clinical – objective. Thinking is a large part of what I see and perhaps I think I know more than what I actually know. As a fire creature, hawk-seeing is active, burning with a youthful, zestful energy. Hawk-seeing is intense, focused, aware; it misses nothing. Scanning the whole, often with “blurry eyes,” every moving blade of grass tells me something.
When I am facing west, I consider the spirit-keeper in this place: a bear. I picture myself a bear, inside my winter cave that I have scratched into the earth. In that place, there is nothing to see with eyes and no one to confront. As an aggressive creature, a confronting creature, I must confront someone and, with no “other” to confront, I confront myself. Looking within, I peel back the layers of myself to ascertain that which moves me, lures me, so that I may begin to feel a soul-to-soul connection with what I see. Bear-seeing is a way of seeing where place and I are not so different. Like water, I make myself malleable in the face of that which I confront, following my emotional energies that lay just below the threshold. This shapeshifting serves me to behold and then become those energies. How does what I see make me feel?
I picture myself a horse in this way, giving the horse look, which is a love look. The energy I project outward when seeing is love energy. This is horse-medicine-seeing, looking at what is there in the same way one would a loved one, a child, a good friend. Love energy washes over what I see, which changes it (and me) in profound ways! Horse-seeing feels deeply what it sees and knows, far and wide, high and low, in all ways, without discrimination. Not one way and then another, but all at once – a true overview. There is an airiness about horse medicine, too, so I watch as the wind, moving air, animates things. To animate means to make alive. I begin to feel a being-to-being connection to the place and the beings there even as I watch the spirits dance around me, carried by the wind, out and about, listening to me, watching me, carrying me, as I struggle to discern what they’re saying.