Never done with looking

This fountain graces Forsyth Park in Savannah, Georgia. June 2019

“There are things you can’t reach. But
You can reach out to them, and all day long.
…I look; morning to night I am never done with looking…”  — Mary Oliver

What do you see in the photo above? A fountain, of course, and if you’ve ever been to Savannah, Georgia, you probably recognize it as the oft-photographed focal point of Forsyth Park. But look more closely; do you notice anything else in the photo?

The color is what caught my eye. What was that part at the top of the statue, and why was it not white like the rest? As I drew closer, I realized that this was indeed something separate, something more fascinating than the statue atop the fountain: a live hawk, perched there almost completely still. Now and then it turned its head, looking around to one side and then the other, taking in a wider view.

I wonder whether the sculptor intended the statue’s hand to become a roost. June 2019

My camera telephoto enabled me to zoom in and watch the hawk, who did not need such a device to see, in great detail, each and every person standing on the ground. I fancy that’s what it was doing: looking at the people, curious about us as we were about it. But perhaps it also was mesmerized by the motion of the water at the top of the fountain, which seemed the primary focus of its attention. I didn’t see it move to drink any of the water; it just perched there on the statue’s motionless hand, alert and majestic.

I lost track of how long I stood there watching the hawk and taking photos of it, the lovely fountain all but forgotten. Though I wasn’t looking at the humans around me, I’m sure that others were watching the hawk too, reaching out to what we could not reach. Perhaps the hawk was reaching out to us in return, its head pivoting with sharp-eyed focus. It did not move from its roost the entire time I watched, and it was still there when I left.

By that time, I had concluded that statue was where this bird spent most of its time, all day long, never done with looking. I imagine it was there again today, and will be there tomorrow. It now inhabits my brain as surely as it does Forsyth Park, one of an endless stream of adornments guarding against the despair that sits on the edges of my consciousness ready to devour my peace of mind. My mind’s eye needs only to look away from the melancholy and turn toward the magnificent, among which is now this one particular bird. It seems a formidable ally.

One of the surest defenses against sadness or any number of challenging emotions is to reach out for what we cannot reach. And Oliver is right; we can do this by looking, all day long, morning to night. We may lack the hawk’s visual acuity but we can make up for it in the sheer variety and delight of what we are able to enjoy.

Today, I invite you to look, and never be done with looking. Gather up the bright and beautiful, the funny and fabulous. Tuck these treasures away like a jackdaw hiding pilfered jewels, and look again at them when you most need the inspiration. There are many wonders that we cannot fully reach in this life, but my wish for us is that we never stop reaching out for them.

19 Comments

  1. Good morning, Julia!
    You’re right (by now this almost goes without saying, regarding your Despair-Defeating observations). If we can re-train ourselves to be content with the beauty and fascinations we see, will be much happier than if we think that we need to continue to possess everything.
    Love to you and Matt!
    Susan

    • Susan, I do stress “re-framing” over and over here at this blog, because I need so many reminders. It should go without saying by now, but the retraining is a continual process for me. I’m a worrier so I have more problems with focusing too much on major and minor challenges of everyday life, mostly having little to do with possessions (except house or car maintenance). In recent months, when I am feeling low or fed up with paperwork that never seems to end, or similar frustrations, I’ve started ordering myself to just STOP and take an hour or two to do something FUN. For me, this is reading, writing notes or letters, or taking time for crafts or other less practical pastimes. Thanks for being here and encouraging the effort! 😀

      • Ann

        Julia, Have you read Mary Oliver’s poem “I Worry”? It’s a wonderful description of us! Love the photo and analysis of the hawk.

        • Ann, I had not read that poem until you mentioned it here. But I looked it up after getting this comment. You’re right- the description is spot on. Thanks for sharing it with us! I think Oliver reached so many people because she captured what so many of us feel. It’s very hard to attain the level of success she did by writing poetry. She really had a gift for it.

  2. Chris

    Julia,
    Great post! I think I’m one of those people, that’s always”looking”. What am I looking for? Sometimes I just don’t know, but I keep looking. Perhaps it’s aspiration, curiosity, or simply confirmation; whatever the reason, I’m happy to be looking and reaching!
    Wow! Nice hawk. He looks just like Robert! (That’s the name my granddaughter came up with as she wanted to name our frequently visiting redtail hawk.). Well, I hope you have a great week; keep a sharp eye out. Who knows what you’ll see next! 😊

    • I love it that your granddaughter named the hawk. Robert is an interesting name for him. It reminds me of the tiger named Richard Parker in Life of Pi. Yes, I will always keep looking, and in a related practice, asking questions. When I was young I was sometimes accused of being nosey. The great thing about wildlife is that they don’t seem to mind my curiosity, as long as I don’t intrude on their space. Have a great week and tell Robert hello for me!

  3. I am taking your up on your thought: “Today, I invite you to look, and never be done with looking. Gather up the bright and beautiful, the funny and fabulous.” We have been given the gift of life, of this moment in time. One of my favourite quotes is by Mary Oliver: “Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”

    • Isn’t that a great quote by Oliver? She has so many great ones. For most of us, it all starts with paying attention. Controlled attention is something that seems to get harder and harder. I wrote a post about it back in 2014, and I think it’s even harder now. One problem is that there are so many good things worthy of our attention, but seemingly many, many more– sometimes the noisiest, most demanding– that are less worthy. Perhaps the second part of Oliver’s quote is a clue how to tell what’s worthy of attention: “Be astonished.” Hopefully in a good way. 🙂

      • I agree – we are in a world that offers so many wonderful conversations – but what to chose? We must chose the worthy.

        • Long ago one of our ministers said that our hardest choices are often not between good and bad, but between good and better. I think that must be true. But it’s a nice problem to have! 🙂

  4. Sheila

    Good morning, Julia. ☕️ This is such a lovely post of another delight of your trip. I, too, have watched a hawk and marveled at their sharp concentration and keen eye…. so patient! How often I look without seeing! Oh, but if we really let ourselves look at things with a “hawk eye” we can see so much more! Have a lovely week! 💛🥰

    • And speaking of things to look at, I have been intending to tell you that this month’s Verandah is one of my all time favorites. I just love that gingerbread trim, especially when I’m not the one who has to keep it painted. 😀 Icy beverages, lovely flowers and greenery, and comfy chairs…what not to like? Today I’m serving the strawberry lemonade tea I just got in the mail from Jena, who sent it to me from her trip to Glen Eyrie. It’s perfect on a hot day when it’s hard to choose between lemonade and iced tea! Have a wonderful week and enjoy the ocean sounds for me. ❤

  5. Rene

    Hawks are numerous here and you can often see them perched on street lamps. One day when I was running on our local high school track, I encountered one perched on a bleacher. This was before the school had a stadium so it was a lot closer to me than you might think. It let me run past, unperturbed. It was definitely magnificent.

    • Hi Rene, it’s great to hear from you. Hope all is well in your world. Wow, I don’t know whether I’ve ever seen a hawk perched that close to the ground. I wonder if the students ever see it? They hawks are beautiful when they are still, but even more breathtaking when they take flight. Hope you see the hawk there again! It would make a great school mascot. Thanks for telling us about it.

  6. Harry Sims

    When I was raised to a higher awareness I realized I was blessed with an insatiable curiosity.

    Harry

    • “Blessed” is a good way to describe it. With curiosity, life will always be interesting.

  7. Julia
    That is such a great metaphor for life, too.

    • Thank you, Zoe! It’s always a joy to see you here.

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