My feet carry me, striding out at first, strong, swift and purposeful on my early morning walk. But I am a distracted walker. I notice so many things within minutes that I slow to look closer, then to squat and gaze and wonder: at the glow of lamps on a porch; the lines of leaded window-panes; even the indefinable “sense” of a household asleep behind closed blinds. Light dances with shadow on a sloping bank of wild grasses and flowers. Already I am both captivated and trying to capture what I see if I can. I pass a wooden porch attached to an old home, and the morning light catches its peeling rafters. How many people have sat beneath them, I wonder? Who were they? I imagine visiting friends, sharing confidences and laughter, children on their haunches, lips slack, absorbed in their imaginary world of play. This morning a wiry woman hunches over, legs crossed, elbows on knees, looking deep in thought, smoking what I guess is her first cigarette of the day. The smoke wafts its way into my nostrils as I quietly pass by, and its smell reminds me of my mother before she finally kicked the habit.
The morning is a cascade of fascination, and yet I know that I only see a fraction of what is on the buffet table. The walk is a receiving of gift after gift. I wonder if this is what heaven is like—this quiet walk through beauty. I stoop to snap a tiny white flower at the foot of a tree with my phone’s camera, and I hear it say, “Who me?” “Yes, you, little flower,” I reply, “you are so sweet and pretty. I see you. I notice you.” And later, squatting down close to another tiny flower, petals back-lit by the sun, I wonder: if the poet, Mary Oliver, would have had a camera phone, would she have described her walks—painted her steps through nature so beautifully in words? Would we see what she saw through her skillful writing, and her wise, alert eyes? And I resolve to try harder to follow her lead, even from a far distance!