Within Breathing Distance

I FOCUS my camera.... The photo shows what I hadn't looked for - a gull's wing between my lens and the wave's edge.

Nature is not an art gallery. I fool myself thinking I can stand back, spectator, mumbling "Charming view!" Distance only tells you of the immense immediacy of things. "But it's only over there!" someone will say one day, gazing with amazement at this planet from somewhere out in space. The trouble is we're habitually chasers of horizons (or planets), oblivious to the hushed intimacy of our own environment.

Exactly how close is discovery? Willing to be surprised in this Indian summer, I lie now full length on the earth. Here in reach of an eyelash, a microscopic spider races down a corn husk. And just north of my nose, a cricket bends to peer at an aphid struggling through the pale grass that grows on the back of my hand.

What's happening is unbelievably noiseless. Now an ant is joining the aphid. I suspect that something situationally significant is going on. As I lean closer, a butterfly's wing suddenly brushes my cheek.

We talk about the importance of standing back to "see things in perspective," but nature is really a close-up. It's only an insect's shadow away, reminding you that wonder is within breathing distance - right where you can find it.

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