When I lived in the city, the ‘something new’ that I noticed going to work was always HUGE—an immense hole in the ground for a new skyscraper, cornrows of ‘dozers for the freeway construction, square acres of asphalt for a new parking lot. The fall season at the shoe store featured acres of new heels, and the football stadium encircled tens of thousands of screaming fans.
My TV blared out sound bites of simultaneous world crises: One in pictures, one in voice over, another with breaking news, each an crawling ant banner of fear.
My local movie theater had 24 screens. One featured an adult cartoon in garish colors 50 feet high. Next door an action film ratcheted from spectacular car crashes to building destructions to bodies and blood spattering the far corners of the mega-screen.
My night symphony opened with the cacophony of car alarms and police helicopter searchlights overhead. Periodically the ba-room of neighborhood boom boxes mixed with the underlying hum of 18 wheelers and RVs on the freeway nearby.
And always, the predominant color was gray: smoggy sky gray, parking garage gray, freeway wall gray.
I got used to it, and accepted that was the way of the world, and thought nothing of it.
Until I moved to the country.
The first six months here I kept looking around, watching, waiting. Something was wrong! It was too quiet. I could hear coyotes yipping at night, for goodness sake! And what were those lights in the sky—not airplanes circling, but…stars?
Instead of gray, the predominant color in my world was now green. And I was bored! How could you live in a world that was just GREEN? I missed the excitement and the entertainment and the buzz of city life.
And then my perceptive field began to change. Ever so slowly, I am learning to appreciate nuances of difference.
For example, here, this morning, was my world:
The dawn sky had curdled milk clouds, the edges just dusted with pink. The mountain behind me gradually came to life, turning from a dark mass into a bright pyramid glazed by the morning sun.
At first light the hummers buzzed the feeders and sparrows stirred in the branches, shaking their heads and fluffing stiff feathers. Then came the earliest thrasher, whipping his long beak back and forth through the millet in search of sunflower seed.
Only when the sun had fully risen did the quail appear, clucking contentedly to themselves as they followed single file along trails only they could see.
The rabbit bush hedge-rowing the back fence had burst into bloom. An errant breeze floated snow clouds of tiny white thistle-like flowers through the air.
In the garden, pineapple sage bloomed with stalks of scarlet, attracting tiny sulfur butterflies. Under the protection of the rose bush thorns, pansies showed faces of blue and yellow. Others in the open garden had been uprooted by passing javalina. I saw the tiny, precise hoof prints in the damp garden soil.
The hummingbirds still visited the lone feeder, along with the bees getting ready to winter over. I refilled it in the early morning hours when the cold quieted the bees.
The peach trees had been dropping their leaves, one by one, so that the branches remained olive green, while single yellow and red leaves paved the earth below.
An ash tree next door transmuted into Chesterfield gold, while the one next to it remained in summer green. I saw the dim outline of houses behind me across the wash as the mesquite leaves thin and drop. Soon the trees will be bare, and I will trade privacy for a brilliant, full sunlight.
And that’s what I perceived this morning.
My world is very different now. Not better, not worse. Just different.
The pace of life is slower here, but it has to be, in order to experience the subtle nuances around me. You can’t discover what I see now at 90 miles an hour. Or even at two.
And that’s OK. Because I still have time to learn.