In biology, there is the practice of systematic observation. You draw a square on the ground, and learn about everything that happens inside this one meter/one foot/one inch square of earth and sky. It is the practice of knowing the names of every creature the walks through the soil, flies over it, or craws through it. It is the practice of knowing the names of the plants and fungi that grow there, of knowing the migration patterns of creatures and plants through it.
One spring, I spent a series of very early Friday mornings walking through the damp grass of one corner of one park, and taking stock of all the birds I could hear and see within. Two robins that way, one pine siskin in the tree, six crows, about a million starlings under the tree. Each time you look, you see the same thing in a new light, and new things that you didn’t notice at all before.
Pay attention to how your vision changes over time. Suddenly, the difference between one snail and the next is completely obvious. The shadow under the juniper is dark purple, not brown. That one crow seems to be in charge of the other crows. To observe, whether for art or science, is to hone one’s mind, to see with new eyes, and to be simply be amazed.
Photo via the RSPB Big Schools’ Birdwatch.