After many years of living smack-dab in the center of New York City, I returned to the beautiful Pacific Northwest and settled back into a place I thought I knew.
Washington is a place where you can be in a desert (yes, with rattlesnakes), in the mountains, in a rainforest, on the beach of an island, or in a bustling city all within two hours. That’s why so many people love it here. That’s what makes it so special. It’s a hard place to get bored of, or in.
While I once thrived on the loud, busy streets—the constant action perpetuated me into spirals of more, more, more—I now thrive in peace, solitude, pine trees, morning light…
When I moved back, I hiked my favorite, familiar trails, reunited with old friends, visited the same beaches and rode the same ferry routes… but something was different.
With my camera always glued to my hip and a macro lens as its companion (a specific lens that allows you to focus extremely close to something—think insect wings or dew drops), I began seeing the world, my once-familiar world, in a new light. I saw the way the morning sunbeams came through the moss, I saw the dew drops on the ferns, I saw the texture of the mushrooms. I couldn’t believe how beautiful everything was. Once I slowed down, I noticed.
I hung up a bird feeder in my backyard and learned to become friends with the little feathered creatures that visited me. I lost my fear of spiders and other “creepy crawlies” as I look at them, too, as friends. Once us humans realize we’re not “all that,” it’s easy to become friends with, and respect, the other species that share our home. We couldn’t be here without them.
In one of my all-time favorite books, Ishmael, Daniel Quinn writes, “‘No one species shall make the life of the world its own.’ … That’s one expression of the law. Here’s another: ‘The world was not made for any one species.'”
After re-wilding my own soul and owing so much of it to these other lives, how could I ever think I’m better, or above, anything else? That mindset couldn’t be more wrong. How embarrassing.
Once I realized how much there was to see when I looked down, I began looking up, too. And what did I see? Big, brown wings that “woooooshed” overhead. Eagles.
I don’t know where or when my love of bald eagles began, but my fascination with them has led me all over Washington, Oregon, and up into British Columbia, Canada, to watch and observe. Next on my list: Idaho and Alaska.
They are such incredible, giant creatures. I could watch them for hours. (I’ve grown quite attached to the family in this live Florida webcam.)
I don’t study eagles, and I can’t tell you too many things about them other than some common facts (like that their nests can be up to 12 feet high, eight feet across, and weigh something like two tons; or that their heads don’t turn white until they’re about five years old), but I’m drawn to them in a way I can’t quite explain.
What this all means
Noticing these seemingly tiny things, whether I’m hiking, on a walk, driving, walking into the grocery store—wherever—makes life a whole lot more beautiful, more interesting. How boring would my daily surroundings become if I didn’t choose to notice?
To most, and I used to be like this, too, a tree is just a tree. A bird is just a bird. Morning light is just morning light. Rainy days are, well, wet and should be spent indoors.
Getting excited to see an eagle every day, getting excited by the way the fog sits in the pines of the Cascade Mountains, getting excited by the unfurling of a new fern bud, by the way an oyster tastes like its ocean, by the way moss dangles and twirls like a trapeze artist, by the way a spider weaves its web, is how I maintain my sense of curiosity. Of wonder.
I’ll leave you with this, a passage from another of my favorite books, Wild Comfort, written by Kathleen Dean Moore:
“I’m thinking it’s a paltry sense of wonder that requires something new every day. I confess: Wonder is easy when you travel to desert islands in search of experiences you have never imagined, in search of something you have never seen before, in search of wonder, the shock of surprise. It’s easy, and maybe it’s cheap. It’s not what the world asks of us.
“To be worthy of the astonishing world, a sense of wonder will be a way of life, in every place and time, no matter how familiar: to listen in the dark of every night, to praise the mystery of every returning day, to be astonished again and again, to be grateful with an intensity that cannot be distinguished from joy.”
I hope your 2023 is filled with wonder. May you, like me, find joy in the smallest of life’s beauties. When you really start looking, nothing is as it seems.
As RVers, we are so fortunate to be exposed to new things, environments, flora and fauna on a near-daily or monthly basis. Never take advantage of that.
This year, I’ll be where the eagles are: in the mist, in the fog, in the morning light, splashing about in rivers, searching for something yummy for my eyes, and soul, to feast on.
I hope I’ll see you out there.
All photos are mine. Copyright Emily Woodbury 2023.