Seeing With New Eyes

2 min

Sometimes knowing something very well is knowing it so well you can’t see it anew. Marilyn Englander has this Perspective.

I invited a young friend on a trip to Death Valley. I was enthusiastic about guiding her on her first visit, revealing special spots I’ve discovered over 30 years. Her main interest is geology, so I hauled out my worn field guides to plan. Her eyes would pop at what I’d show her.

As we approached Furnace Creek that first scalding afternoon, she kept asking to stop along the road. First it was a dusky desert holly that caught her eye. Then a scarlet beaver tail blossom. I patiently indulged her delight in those familiar beauties. Then she spotted a newly emerged stream in a wash, inviting me to admire tadpoles zipping around. Now that was something new to me. I praised her for her keen eye.

It was early evening when we reached Zabriskie Point, where I’d planned a short geology hike. But she rejected the steep trudge down the trail in favor of photographing a golden eagle soaring overhead. Eyes on the ground, I’d missed him. Was he grand!

Next day, more of the same. I imagined the day’s gem would be our long, winding chug through a remote slot canyon. We’d scan towering walls for striations and upheavals.

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But she had other ideas. She wanted to explore what I considered picked-over tourist spots. Leading me down the boardwalk along Salt Creek, just off the highway, she pointed out pup fish mating in the shallows. We crept up slowly on a zebra-tailed lizard doing push-ups in the sand. The pace was slow, but I felt myself beginning to look around with curiosity. How had I missed all this for so many years?

Her discoveries multiplied: delicate ghost flowers spindling up from the rocks, shards of translucent selenite embedded in chalky canyon walls, a frog living in the irrigation system, and miraculously, a shaggy mane mushroom that emerged at dawn from the sand just beyond the over-watered greens at the hotel.

In a landscape I thought I knew intimately, I relinquished my claim to expertise and saw with new eyes.

With a Perspective, this is Marilyn Englander.

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Marilyn Englander is a North Bay educator and founder of REAL School Marin.

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