Saturday, October 15, 2011

Noticing

Babe and farmer hoggettWhen the dogs and I stepped out of the house this morning, the lane was littered with oak, elm, and magnolia leaves so thick our feet (my feet, their paws) barely touched the blacktop as we walked along. It rained last night, not a gentle, soaking, spring-like shower I imagine makes the trees lift their limbs and whisper to one another, "Psst, pass the soap, will you?" This one was intermittently wind-blown and down-pouring, scattering leaves and drenching the countryside. It was the kind of rain that rinses the air clean as a whistle and whets sunlight sharp as a tack.

As we walked up the road, morning business on our minds, something unusual caught my eye. A single leaf, a tiny piece of oaken gold, hung spinning in mid-air, its stem caught in a single strand of spider web, like an arboreal ballet dancer dancing as though her moment had come and never would again. I'm reminded of the line by Mark Twain, Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth? That's what she was doing, drifting and swaying to music beyond my hearing. I was mesmerized.

Some people never notice the things that render life more than a matter of getting by, those side-long, fleeting instants when eternity opens a window, reaches through, and taps us on the shoulder. Sort of like what happens in the film, Babe (1995) with James Cromwell as
Farmer Hoggett, a man who notices. Hoggett lives on a sheep farm in Queensland, Australia, and to his family, he seems a bit odd now and then. They're solid, ordinary people who are nevertheless, completely unaware that eternity has not only opened a window, it's climbed through the frame, unpacked its bags, and taken over the guest room.

Hogget knows something is happening. He can't explain it, neither does he bother to try; some things you try to explain and their significance gets lost in the details. He simply lets it all in and follows its lead. Presented with possibilities others would dismiss, he can't help but take them seriously,


For instance, when he notices how Pig interacts with his sheep, he allows the little guy a chance to prove himself. Hoggett sees what no one else can or will, and while he's a man of few words, his actions are as pregnant as a woman at nine months who;s about to pop. Only he doesn't just notice things, he responds to them, opening a creative space in which they can unfold at their own pace. We're often in such a hurry to find out things will turn out, perhaps because we're in doubt they will, that we forget about everything that comes before. Hoggett's efforts are ridiculed, of course, even by his family. But then comes the final scene, when the crowd that jeered goes crazy, cheering its heart out over the little pig that could.


Hoggett knew what Pig was capable of because he'd witnessed it. He noticed something unusual and instead of blowing it off as nonsense, he did what most of us are too afraid or too embarrassed to do, he gave it credence. He did the hard thing and in the end, he wasn't disappointed. It really all begins with noticing.



(Creative Commons image by Lord Mariser via Flickr)


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