“I can’t say as I’d know how to tell what it was like to take the road more traveled, because I’m not sure I’ve ever done that.”
Join Leela on a walk to sit near a pond and get close to the pond’s inhabitants. And do some deep thinking in the quiet, of course.
Transcript and notes:
Recorded 16 March, 2023.
I saw a fox here the other day. It's amazing what you find when you wander off and don't let the path dictate your direction. Out the drive and down the street. Down here and around there and oh look, what's this. It's a pond.
It's a pond tucked into the back of the middle of a suburban development. Tall with grasses, unmown, strewn with seeds, butted up against the highway, and almost backyards of tall rowhouse condos. Today I'm here in the afternoon, and everything else seems to have gone to rest, if not to bed. Last time it was morning and I found a pair of cardinals and a pair of mallards. Songbirds and songbirds and, and a fox, a fox that I thought was a house cat, but was almost certainly a fox.
That day, it was cold enough that I bundled all the bundling I could do, bundled up. Today, it's so warm that I'm peeling layers. Getting everything covered in tiny pieces of grass, broken off flowers from last season's winter. This is the kind of magic I'm looking for. This is the kind of magic I sometimes get to find. It's not that different from my business, really.
Intensives are always asking, what's this? What's that? And why? And how and is it connected? And can I go there? Does this gate open? In this case, this afternoon, the gate opens. The gate that I passed- the first time I passed it. It has a sign that says that it's not safe to enter the water of the pond. No swimming, no boating. No skating. It says it's deep. Although certainly in the edges, it doesn't look deep at all. It looks like it handles runoff. So perhaps sometimes it is deep. Certainly it's deep enough that the ground around it is damp. The grass is green.
The reeds are beginning to push up their spring shoots out of the full, brown mass. Probably if I were making baskets, I could find some good materials here. Some things that nature has held well over the season. But I didn't come here looking for baskets today. I just came here looking for sun. And the first time I walked past that sign I applied it to the gate in front of it and continued walking. But this time I read it again, anew, in the context of a warm still day. And I thought but it doesn't say we can't enter and I noticed that the gate latches but doesn't lock.
That same gate where when I startled the fox. It came running along the edge of the pond and jumped over just there, as though it would have gone through had it been open. So this time, I opened the gate and came down toward the water's edge. I had decided I wanted a place to sit by the water, quiet and comfortable. And so I have one. I had decided that I wanted a place to listen and so I have one. I had decided that I wanted a place to talk, and so I have one.
The birds are here. They're just quieter and maybe startled by my entry, it seems unlikely that many people come this way. Enough feet fall around this little bit of water, that there's a fence, that there are gates, and that the path is trodden down. But not enough people come here to make the path dirt. That's just about how I like it. I like a little company. But not enough so we need paving. Not enough, so we need cement. Not enough so we need intervention. Just so we can be here. Just enough. Just a little.
Robert Frost wrote that poem about the road less traveled, and way leading on to way, and that making all the difference. I can't say as I'd know how to tell what it was like to take the road more traveled because I'm not sure I've ever done that. Even the roads that looked more traveled originally are not. As I'm sitting here watching, I can see evidence of life, moving ripples and bubbles, that go against the current. The bugs and the birds come back as I sit here longer.
That's the thing about going places that are not navigated often. They are never uninhabited. We just don't know what's there. How shall we find out what's there? Is it ours to disturb. What might we notice instead from far away? Like the squirrels nest, silhouetted in the top of the trees, across from me, across the pond.I would not see that from the ground. When we go into unknown territory, it is up to us to know who knows it. To go with respect, and grace and kindness. It is up to us to know that we are guests. That is hard, sometimes.
We intensives tend to think that the things that we know are the things that everyone knows. And that that is all there is to know. But that is not true. And as we get older, we tend to realize that collectively and individually, that somewhere here there is a fox and somewhere here there are red-winged blackbirds and chickadees and squirrels and cardinals and mallards. That there are almost certainly fish. That that there might be the fox's den, or it might be something else. Someone else. Another neighbor, who isn't willing to be seen.
I find myself recently in leadership and otherwise asking, Who has done this before? Who must have done this before? Who must have encountered this challenge before? In what way might they have approached it that I am not even beginning to guess at? With what perspective might they have come that would have shaped that approach? How do we know where to begin, if we don't ask first?
Years back, I was interviewing for a technical support job at my college's Help Desk. And one of the tech support questions was "somebody brings you a pencil and they say it's not writing. How do you troubleshoot it?" It turned out that it was a mechanical pencil. And so a pencil sharpener was no good at all. That had not even occurred to me the first time I heard the question. Who has come before us and how have they done this? And why? Perhaps they have not even tried to do this. Why?
How can we learn from the feet and the smells and the sounds? And the living things before us? And what questions will help us know first? What watching will help us know first? How shall we be first, together?
Thanks for tuning in.