No doubt, a scientific explanation exists for why an observer suddenly sees in plain view an object there all the time but never before noticed. It can feel embarrassing. For example, this morning while getting in a bicycle ride before the heat of the day, I headed down a street traveled countless times and suddenly saw a tree in Kent Parrent’s front yard. You might say, “Trees are everywhere, so what?” Yes, but Kent’s house is straight in view for a whole block since the street runs right into his house at a T in the road.
The tree is not remarkable for anything. It’s probably twenty feet tall and regular in shape. Maybe it was the morning light, or the angle of a shadow, but something startled me in seeing it. Usually, when heading down the block toward his house, I notice the house’s brickwork, the driveway, what cars or trucks are there or not there, if Kent is working in the yard, if anyone is in the swing, and a few other items on what must be an unconscious checklist. As a side note, Kent was an assistant principal and my mentor during the 2001-2002 school year when I taught English to special education students at Christian County High School on an emergency certificate. It was nothing short of a delightful serendipity when he turned up on my favorite biking route.
I almost thought, “Someone just stuck this tree there yesterday. It hasn’t been there.” But that can’t be. It’s a pleasant, modest tree to observe, not too tall, too short, too old, too unshapen, or too anything. At this moment, it just stood out—graceful, refreshing, and simple—an object to see and take pleasure in. After all, isn’t that why people landscape? The rest of the ride became an excursion of observing trees in yards along the ride. My mother-in-law, Mimi, would be proud of me if she were still with us. She was an artist and always pointed out details that in my earlier years would leave me thinking “Huh?”
Speaking of observations, Dr. David Carter, retired emeritus professor (public speaking) attended the meet and greet for regular faculty and adjunct faculty. Dr. Carter teaches an online communication course now. We all remember how trim he always was, and he looks even thinner now. I wondered if he was ok, so I asked him. He looked tan and healthy, just so very thin. He said, “I’ve taken up bicycling and lost weight.” He added, “I like bicycling. There’s a risk to it.” That got me curious. He continued, “There is an element of danger, but I like that.” He’s not talking about taking chances, just the risk of the road.
With emphasis lately on walking 100 miles for fitness, bicycling is a good alternative to those who have foot or knee problems. As Tim Moore, owner of Bikes and Moore, says, “Bicycling is easy on the joints” and “You create your own cooling breeze,” not to mention the fun of going faster.
The other morning, I saw Dr. Kevin Felton. He was finishing up his ride, but we rode along for ten minutes and chatted. That also introduced the element of staying in formation, i.e. not bumping into each other. I’m glad to say that we both wear a helmet. Just wanted you to know that.
It is worth mentioning too that the whole point about observing things hitherto unnoticed pertains as well to reading familiar texts. Familiar texts can include those that we read for insight, those texts that we never tire of revisiting. Very often, I exclaim, “How did that detail get into the text?” It is humbling and thrilling at the same time, just like life.