Never done with looking
“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.
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.