I am a noticer – and oblivious. As with most people, I suspect, these two opposed qualities in me are compartmental rather than contradictory. Most of the women in my life will stress the ‘oblivious’ side of my make-up. I occasionally pick up a vibe from a woman that lets me know there is something to be noticed – something I OBVIOUSLY should be noticing – but am not. Years ago, following several epic noticing failures, I began to devise a checklist for when I caught that vibe – hair, dress, weight loss,…. A female friend of mine once confided in me and asked advice about a romantic relationship and I gave such advice as I could. Soon afterwards, as we spoke again, I caught ‘the vibe’ and started through my checklist. No item seeming appropriate, I continued in ignorance until she gave an exasperated sigh and thrust her left hand forward. Ah, add engagement ring to the checklist.
At 63 years of age, I have pretty much discarded this and other checklists and simply accepted my observational compartmentalization. I notice spiders because I don’t like them. I have an aversion to walking into a spider web and then trying to figure out where on my person the nasty creature may be. I notice birds and trees because they both fascinate me. Such diversity, beauty, and utility ought not be overlooked. Some people have tried to tell me that spiders also are diverse, beautiful and useful. No sale. I will continue to notice spiders only in order to avoid them. But, should anyone ask me at almost any waking moment about the birds or trees I have passed in the last hour, I could probably give you a species list of either. I know before I start looking which birds are likely to hang out at ground level, eye level, mid-terrace, or tree-top. I know the flight patterns and quick identification marks. I know which trees tend to be colonial and which are water tolerant and the profile differences that come with altitude, degree of sunlight and so forth. I can find the mallard nests or the killdeer chicks. I can tell you that the kingbirds seem more numerous than usual in my area this spring. I know the location of mature American Elms that have, somehow, staved off the Dutch Elm Blight. I know these things because I have been noticing birds and trees for going on six decades.
I try to train my grandchildren in my areas of interest. We will go on walks and I will say – point me out a robin or a redbud tree. It is amazing to me that they will have to stop and look around every time – even if I say, point me out a Canadian goose! How can there be a bird the size of a small dog right out in the open and anyone be unaware of it. I can tell you that if there was a spider the size of a small dog in my vicinity, I would notice! But, what can I say – I’m sure my beautiful wife wishes I would notice her hair a little more.
I guess, at the end of this rambling communication, I would simply ask – how many cartwheels and handsprings does God have to do across the landscape of our lives before He gets our attention? And the answer, I suppose, is – we notice what we care about.
Pastor and Author Terry Bailey, Senior Minister of Indian Run Christian Church