March 19, 2011

Many Ways of Seeing

All I could see when I opened the blinds this morning was a dawn lit fog bank—a huge cloud had wrapped around the building, but it was glowing with the morning sun. The nearby bridge and the barge building facility had totally disappeared except for two schoolbus-yellow crane tips against the sky. A few towers loomed above the fog: the KOIN tower’s blue crayon tip was shiny and new looking. It was a lovely scene, but fleeting: within minutes the fog cloud had disappeared. It looks like a lovely day is imminent. Perhaps I’ll take my walker for a walk along the river.

Yesterday I had a visit from the Wallers: two Roseburg artists who are doing a lot of work with the Hader project. Judy (whose painting was just selected for a major touring exhibit of watercolor) had been trying to explain to me the difference between Elmer Hader’s Impressionist oil paintings and some which seemed more realistic to me. (I have NO art training.) Then we went over some of Elmer’s paintings in a small exhibit brochure, and she was pointing out the way he used patches of blues and mauves and yellows to show the different hues of snow, or the movement of water. Looking out the window at the muddy Willamette I asked her to show me any color other than brown in that river. Sure enough, she did! And gradually I was able to spot some of the changing colors in that brown wash, as well as the differences caused by the river traffic: rowing crews, a tugboat, a paddle wheeler, a tiny sailboat.

Over lunch we had talked about how animals can sense and “see” what we humans cannot, and that some senses are due to training. Fly fishermen can “see” where the fish are, and my Audubon friend could spot birds far away that were impossible to make out. Then I remember coming to Roseburg and a friend patiently teaching me to see mistletoe in the oak trees. At first it was impossible to see, and then it became impossible to miss. Training and observation.

So today I’m just going to watch the river and see how many colors show up instead of just seeing all the good growing soil washing down. It’s a good lesson for living. Isn’t there a quote somewhere about “he who has eyes but does not see?”

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