Jackie and I went for a long walk at Jacks Peak Park the other day. Her big dog Max came too. He was on a leash; we weren’t. Well, not exactly. I felt, as I often do out there, leashed to the land itself and to the trees and the sky, not by the neck, but by that which resides down a bit lower.
Jackie commented on how she notices patterns in nature and pointed out the patterns made by the trees suffering from the drought. “Noticing patterns,” she explained, “can be a way to help people increase their awareness of the natural world.” It can be away to pull people in, for them to become active observers.
She went on to tell me a story about her daughter who she’d talked quite a bit to about the earth and her patterns. Jackie had told daughter that willows grow near water. One day they were driving in Oregon together and her daughter said, “There’s a river over there,” pointing out the car window. Jackie didn’t see any running water, so she asked, “How can you tell?” “Look,” said her daughter, “a bunch of willows are growing there.”
Jackie asked me about loving Jacks Peak Park and about the abundant time I spend there. It’s not often that I notice patterns. I’m usually more caught up in the immediate, what’s right in front of me, the details and the stories I make up about what I’m seeing and walking through. But for the last several months I’ve been noticing one particular pattern—the pattern made by the drought-stressed trees.
Their stress is shown in brown and falling pine needles, more fallen branches and whole trees and by something less easy to describe. The trees appear brittle; their limbs aren’t as stalwart and upward facing; there’s a frailty about them. The changes in the trees have diminished my joy in walking at Jacks Peak.
Jackie Nelson is the Environmental Education Supervisor for Monterey’s Regional Park District. That is only part of the explanation for why she notices stuff I wouldn’t. Mostly, it’s just because of who she is, who she probably always has been. Not only did she notice patterns but she found this tiny fallen bird nest that I brought home.