October 16, 2007

Along the canal

Along the canal

When I take a walk along the canal with my friend Signing Woman, I am always prepared for dramatic interruptions that come without warning. Right in the midst of a conversation, she'll suddenly go silent, her head swishing to the side, her legs suddenly stopped as she points toward a bird, a butterfly, or even an insect. So many of my friends are naturalists that I am quite used to this behavior, although it doesn't stop me from teasing them about it. And I admit, when I am with someone like that, I end up seeing all kinds of things I probably wouldn't have noticed.

The other day, Signing Woman told me, she was walking along the canal, stopping as usual at every bird or unusual plant when she saw something you don't get to see very often: a great blue heron, standing still, eating a fish.

"You could actually see the fish going down the throat," she said.

A young woman was running by, wearing headphones and an iPod, and Signing Woman started signaling to her. The young woman couldn't hear anything because of the music in her ears, but Signing Woman, who works as an interpreter, is very good at hand motions.

Young iPod Woman stopped and looked. They both watched the heron, with Signing Woman giving whispered facts about the bird.

"Isn't that cool?" Signing Woman whispered.

The young woman nodded. "I don't usually see stuff like that," she said. "I come here everyday, but I usually just run by fast, listening to music, zoning out."

They watched the bird for a little longer, sharing the moment, then smiled at each other, and went their separate ways.


Linda said...

It's amazing how many people don't really see what's around them! I used to be that way. I've worked hard to pay attention. I've really started enjoying life since then. Signing Woman sounds like my kind of person!

Tall Girl said...

My love of herons became a little tarnished when they began to visit our large pond in West London on a regular basis to 'fish' for frogs. The flapping of their huge wings as they arrived, and the sight of that slow stalking behaviour at the water's edge became menacing and infuriating rather than just weirdly beautiful... Watching the frogs' legs, still kicking and struggling as they disappeared inside the beak and down that long throat is a thing I won't forget. They decimated our frog population a couple of years running. People put out plastic herons to deter them... or wires across the pond...

dr zombieswan said...

I do notice that so many people forget to look at things around them. They miss so much! The last few weeks, my baby girl and I were quite fond of going out of the house and looking at a huge spider web in one corner of the yard. It was a white and black crabby looking spider, and baby girl would sing "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and we'd tell said spider good morning, etc. Then we had a big rain storm the other day and her web has been gone since. Indeed, down came the rain. Maybe she'll come back, I dunno.
But not only do many people refuse to see this kind of thing, but when they do, they often decide to pull it down or see it as a threat. I can understand, I just don't agree.

nimiecat said...

I used to see them flying around the potomac on my morning commute. And was always in awe. They're so huge and prehistoric looking. They seem look out of place in the middle of the city.

Mike said...

So true! I have a friend who loves birds and I am now learning all the time.

Rana said...

I have to admit that I've become very deliberate about stopping to look at things like squirrels and insects and whatnot - I want other people to stop and look too.

That, and I'm trying to get my students to think I'm weird. ;)

zhoen said...

I don't know why, but I notice little critters like that as well, and I've no training. Saw a snapping turtle laying eggs near the Fenway, on the verge between two busy streets.