Invisible to Me

Invisible to Me

This is the kind of picture I drew in kindergarten.

I still remember the box of crayons, the cheap off-color paper, and my sense of frustration. I hated the crayons because I couldn’t fill a shape with a solid color. Just scratchy crayon marks. Ugh.

But mostly I was frustrated by my inability to draw what trees and flowers actually looked like. In the classroom, all I had was my imagination to guide me. I had never looked very closely at trees or flowers and all I could remember was vague shapes.

By first grade we stopped drawing pictures and learned to read. Now, when I  played outside, my attention was focused on the world of the written word.

I forgot all about the detailed reality of the outdoors.

The outdoors was positively BORING.

When I was required to be there, I imagined stories. Dragons and princesses and spaceships...the landscape was just a background, full of stuff that didn’t matter - just trees and flowers and grass.

As I got older, I lived more and more indoors. When my parents took us on hikes I rolled my eyes as they admired  'the scenics'.. What a relief when I was old enough to stay home and avoid nature.

When I went to college I studied numbers and information in books. A job in an office followed - no windows and a long commute. My apartment building was perched on a slab of pavement next to an interstate.

Then I moved to a house in the suburbs and had to deal with a yard - ugh!  My strategy was to poison weeds and cover the ground with mulch. I hated the heat and bugs and dirt.

For all these years I never actually noticed the outdoors. It was just a bunch of trees and flowers and grass - abstractions hidden behind words. Maybe that was the problem -the words got in the way, and I never looked behind them at what was actually there.

Then, something changed.

I’m not exactly sure when it happened or why. But I began to notice. I noticed that the trees were all different. That the yard was not just “grass” but a population of all sorts of growing things. I noticed that all of it changed all the time.

Gradually, my world became immensely richer.  Then, at some point I realized that not only were these plants fantastic and alive, but a lot of them were edible, too!

I started learning about foaging and wild foods, horrifying my friends when I sampled the contents of their lawns, making salads from the back yard, cattail casseroles and acorn brownies.

Everywhere I go I notice the plants - in the cracks in the sidewalk, along the interstate, in places where they are allowed, and places where they aren't supposed to be. I can see past the words now and realize how names and labels obscure what is actually there.

Of course, if I wanted to draw pictures of those trees and flowers, my artistic ability is no better than it was in kindergarten, but now I have a cell phone camera!

Leave a comment