If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, sooner or later you’ve come to realize (or you will at any rate) that I am a ponderer. I spend most of my waking hours inside of my head, rolling ideas around. During formal meetings at the office I have a tendency to look down at my note pad and doodle as I listen. Informal meetings, those caught-in-the-hallway-need-your-thoughts-on-this moments, find me with arms crossed, head down.
I think best without the distractions of eye contact. Generally, I respond with my head down, my gaze averted and with a lot of hand gesturing (I’m a “hand talker”) and arm motion, though when I lock gazes it’s my way of driving home my point or making sure I’m completely understanding a question or situation.
Outside of the office? I tend to do the same things, and even in my day-to-day pondering and conversations with myself I continue to be a hand talker/arm waver/doodler/downward looker. My lunchtime walkabouts at the office typically find me watching the sidewalk pass under my feet, my ears piqued at the cacophony of sounds and my nose catching the scent of whatever is in bloom in the yards I pass. These same things apply when I’m on a hike. While I do tend to look up more when traipsing about the woodlands, I’m a fungi fan and so I’m usually looking around for interesting specimens of which to take photos.
Last weekend, Mr. Muse and I were camping with friends in Southeastern Minnesota (more on that later) and as the miles of trails went by I discovered some minuscule red fungus at the edge of the path. Some were just sprouting up and were smaller than a grain of rice, but I caught the blazing red color amidst the dead leaf litter.
It had been a wet week in the Midwest and there was an abundance of fungi, many of it just having grown within the last week as many varieties still had their veils attached or they had just detached. I was hoping to see some slimes or jelly fungus with the rather damp and chilly conditions but had no luck though I did see numerous other plants flowering, a large millipede about 6 inches (15 cm) in length and we managed to catch on the camera phone a video of a spider wrapping up a just-caught fly in its web.
But down isn’t the only direction in which I allow my gaze to fall. Mr. Muse and I spend, and have spent, a great deal of time working on improving the health of our woodlot so we look at trees a great deal. We noticed that all of the maples along the trails all seemed to be black with a mold, mildew or fungus that didn’t appear on any other trees. There was a massive cottonwood that was “43 Sarah Steps” around at the base or just shy of 38′ (12.66 yards/11.7 meters). The rest of the forest appeared to have a great many trees about the same age, easily over 100 years, and little undergrowth which made walking a pleasure. There were birds of numerous species, a huge variety of plants, and when the sun finally showed it’s face, thousands of butterflies flitted about.
And those weren’t the only treats we beheld. Since I have a background of competing in horticulture for years when I was younger, I was asked about the identity of a variety of plants. I was just finishing up taking a photo of a rather hilarious find in the middle of a trail in the woods (a photo for another post) when I was asked what a plant was. I looked up, scrunched my brow for a moment as I looked at what was being pointed out and then gasped with delight. It was a Greater Yellow Lady’s-slipper Orchid! I was beside myself with joy at being so lucky to see a rather large grouping of them immediately next to the trail that when I heard, “Holy shit…. it’s Yoda“, I had to look up.
And sure enough…. there he was. Considering the day had been overcast, damp, drizzly with pockets of mist and fog and a lot of boggy ground and running water everywhere – it was as if we had been transported to Dagobah. We were just missing the bogwings.
Sometimes it’s good to look up, you might just find a pleasant surprise.