Paying Attention

The question the teen writers at the library always have is “what do I write about?” They are looking for the old magical formula to find out where ideas come from. So recently, while doing a workshop on micro non-fiction, I can up with an answer.

“First,” I said, like I was some authority, a wise old grandmother, a famous author, “you take a walk. Preferably with a dog.”

The thing about walking with a dog, is that you can’t focus on the big picture. I’m an intuitive, a big picture person. But walking with Ben, my Golden Retriever, forces me to see and wonder about the minutiae that make up the world. We notice the birds, of course. The communal ones, like crows, cawing as the fly across the valley. The familial ones, like the eagles, who sit in the dead tree by the river. The solitaries, like the Great Blue Heron, who fishes in the oxbow but flies off as soon as he feels my eyes on him. I wonder about them all and about the dead trees the eagles and kingfishers alight atop. Who knew how important dead trees were?

Walking the dog, I notice the less inspiring things, too. Dead frogs and newts in the road. How much life is lost because of cars, I wonder? There’s scat – mostly raccoon. And of course litter, beer cans, McDonald’s cups, napkins, Dunkin’ Donuts bags. What is with humans and throwing trash out of car windows? One day, Bruce, my husband, and I were walking Ben when we came upon a napkin a raccoon had pooped on.

“Why’d he do that” Bruce asked pointing at the soiled napkin. “It’s not like he had to wipe his butt.”

I just shrugged. Wondering more about Bruce’s mind, than the raccoons. But I started to notice scat in close proximity to litter. A pile on a flattened soda can. Another leaning against an empty spool of fishing line. It appears that the local raccoons have a decided opinion of human litter and it is filled with raccoon equivalents to expletives.

I’ve often thought that world would be absolutely fine if humans just disappeared. The carrion eaters and the bugs and bacteria of decay are more important than we are. We might be top of the food chain, but in use to the world we are pretty close to the bottom. Then I saw a video on Facebook that pretty much said the same thing. After an initial catastrophe as our power plants and oil refineries exploded or burned out sending pollutants into the air, the world would slowly go on. Plants and animals taking over our houses and buildings. Everyone but domestic animals getting along quite well without us – thank you very much.

I honestly don’t know why people throw trash out their windows. Maybe I’m wrong about why raccoons deposit scat on our trash. I do think it would be nice thought, if the human race managed to live in such a way that our loss was a detriment to the world and not a blessing. The question is how to begin? And maybe also, is it too late?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *