Archive | Notice

Hopping to a Different Drum


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It was a lovely walk – a quiet, early morning, not yet hot. Lots of birds, small to large – finches and chickadees, woodpeckers and red-winged blackbirds, red-tailed and sharp-shinned hawks, turkey vultures. But uneventful.

Until I left the park. As I was crossing the street, I noticed something moving on the ground. Something small, with small, irregular movements.

I paused to look closer, and realized it was a tiny frog, no larger than my thumbnail. It hopped hopped hopped, then paused and crawled for a few inches. As I watched, I saw more movements out of the corner of my eye.

There were several frogs, all tiny, all hopping in the same direction. No, there were lots of frogs. Not a swarm, but a steady trickle. They ranged in size from my thumbnail to the last section of my thumb. Nearly the same color as the concrete, they looked like bits of rock in the roadway – until they moved. They would hop hop hop, then pause, then hop some more, and some would crawl for a few inches or feet before hopping again.

They hopped up out of the road, toward the pond at the edge of the park. I marveled, and cheered them on, saying, “Go, go, go! You’re almost there!”

I stood there for a few minutes, just watching as they paraded along the edge of the road, up onto the curb and across the path. All going in the same direction.

Except for the ones who weren’t.  As I watched, every now and then one would turn off to the left, back into the street in a completely different direction. At first I wanted to shout, “Wait! You’re going the wrong way!” But The Rebel in me also wanted to cheer them on, even though it was farther and more dangerous to head toward the pond on other side of the road. The less crowded one. “You Go!” I said, “Don’t give up!”

I don’t know how long I stood there watching this tiny parade. (I must have looked odd to the people driving by as I stood, staring at the ground, seemingly looking at nothing.) Finally I wished them well and headed across the street toward home. Then I stopped. Where the heck were they coming from? How did they know where to go?

I turned around and went back across the street, and followed the parade backwards around the corner for about 50 feet as it made its way along the side of the road. I got to the place where they were crossing the road from the field on the other side. A few got run over by cars as they went by, but most made it.

How did they know where to go? Why hadn’t they been spotted by any birds, who could have had quite a breakfast?

Finally I went on my way, pondering: I saw something today that perhaps no one else saw. That by itself was pretty cool. It made me wonder about things and ask questions I wouldn’t have thought to ask otherwise. And it reminded me to celebrate those who take on big tasks, and to celebrate those who hop to a different drum.


Work with a coach who notices things everyone else misses,
and can help you see them, too!
Contact me: susan at susanTblake . com
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Photographer: Ian Britton – FreeFoto.com

Eagles and Turkeys and Music in the Air


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Sunday Morning

Sunday morning I got up and, rather than sipping a leisurely cup of coffee, I got dressed, grabbed my camera and went for a walk on my favorite nature trail.

One of the things I love about my little town is that it is laced with walking and biking trails. My favorite is about a mile from my home and is only open to foot and bicycle traffic. It winds through meadows and along a greenbelt next to a small river, and is either home or a stopping place for a variety of wildlife. I have encountered deer, fox, feral cats, turtle, ground squirrels, red squirrels, snowy egrets, great blue herons, Canada geese, mallard ducks, turkey vultures, red tailed hawks, red shouldered hawks, lizards, and tree frogs. Not to mention a host of small birds, including goldfinches, house finches, bushtits, red-winged blackbirds, scrub jays, mourning doves, band-tailed pigeons, cliff swallows, black phoebes, acorn woodpeckers, Anna’s hummingbirds, and plenty I haven’t identified yet.

So on Sunday morning I set out at the crack of dawn, wondering what I would see and who I would meet.

My first encounters…

I started with my regular encounters with the finches and flycatchers, common on nearly all of my walks. I stopped to take pictures of a snowy egret where the creek and the path pass under the freeway, and he obliged me by posing and being quite patient with me.

Up above my head…

I walked on, and at a point where oak trees on either side of the trail form an arch overhead, I paused. I heard a sound… it wasn’t a cluck, and it wasn’t a squawk. It was more like a … mrrrrp. I heard it again. From overhead. Then I heard it from tree on the other side of the trail. Mrrrp.

I stood quite still, slowly looking up into the branches above my head. Mrrrp. Finally my eyes focused on a large brown bird amongst the leaves. Mrrrp. It was a turkey!

I heard the mrrrp from several places in the trees above me, and realized there was a family of turkeys roosting in the trees, checking in with each other. I counted five young turkeys and the mother, happily perched in the canopy of leaves.

Now, I have seen turkeys on the ground on numerous occasions; in fact, wild turkeys are quite common around here. It is not at all unusual in July and August to see families of turkeys with their chicks parading around.

But in trees? That’s a new one on me. In retrospect, I remember a friend telling me that the turkeys on her property roost in the trees, but I had never seen it myself.

As I stood there, trying to get some clear pictures, a group of walkers came by.

“There are turkeys up in the trees!” I told them. They stopped, and looked, and marveled.

“This may be a dumb question,” one of them said, “but do turkeys fly?”

“Apparently,” I answered.

I wondered, how old do the young turkeys have to be before their mother can get them to fly up into a tree, away from possible predators like foxes or raccoons? How does she protect them until then? They were clearly unconcerned about me (although they were apparently talking about me) being on the ground below them, but couldn’t a hawk swoop in from above and grab one for breakfast?

That’s nice, but…

You may be wondering, “What does this have to do with business, or consulting, or coaching?”

Well, everything.

The day before, I had been talking with a successful professional who has been struggling with standing up for what is important to her in her home life, and it struck me that you can’t be partially true to yourself. Once we put a stake in the ground or take a stand about something, it becomes more and more difficult not to do that in other areas of our lives.

The same thing is true about curiosity. Once we begin noticing what is going on around us and we being exercising our curiosity about what we notice, that spreads into all areas of our lives.

Curiosity, like enthusiasm, is contagious

If I hadn’t noticed that “mrrrp” in the trees above me, and if I hadn’t been curious about what it was, I never would have seen turkeys roosting up above my head.

If I don’t notice what’s going on with my thoughts and reactions, I can’t wonder why I haven’t been successful with something, or why I have been successful with something, or why I am uncomfortable around someone.

If I don’t notice what’s happening with a group I’m working with, or a process I’m part of, I can’t wonder why things are happening the way they are, or why we can’t seem to improve something, or what needs to be done differently.

If I don’t notice they way things are, I can’t appreciate what and who is in my life, and I can’t wonder what I need to do to make things even better.

Noticing and being curious apply to everything, beginning with our inner worlds and extending to everything around us.

And when I share what I notice with others, they often get curious too.

Soaring with the eagles

You know that old adage, “It’s hard to soar with the eagles when you’re surrounded by turkeys”? Well, in this case, being surrounded by turkeys is a very good thing. If you notice them.

All of this talk of turkeys mrrrping up above my head reminds me of a song… enjoy!



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Photos by Susan T. Blake

Spiders, Obsessions and Life Lessons


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I got up this morning, put on my glasses, and went to the kitchen. Just like I do every morning.

I stumbled around, put water on to boil, ran my fingers through my hair, got out the cat food, looked down…

… and saw what looked like a black spider crumpled on the floor. Kind of squished, but not completely.

It was too early to think about anything but Coffee and Feeding the Cats. So I fed the cats while the water heated up.

I came back to the kitchen and, yes, it was definitely a spider. Mostly squished, but not completely.

O my god, I thought, had I stepped on it in my bare feet? Aaaaack.

Oh my GOD, was it in my hair? Did it fall out when I finger-combed my hair? Oh MY GOD, had it been on my pillow? Had I rolled over on it? Eeeeeeeew! OHMYGOD, was it in the clothes I took off the hook and put on when I got up? EEEEEEEEK!

Have I mentioned that I don’t like spiders?

At this point I could quite easily have dissolved into hysteria and spent the rest of the day in the kitchen, screaming.

Instead, I realized that none of that really mattered as long as it hadn’t bitten me, which it hadn’t. (Wait, what’s that itchy spot on my leg?)

So I got a kleenex, picked it up (Eeew, did it move?), didn’t see any red marks on its belly, and threw it in the trash. Eew. (Or should I say, “Threeeew it in the trash”?)

Once I had my coffee, I thought about how easily I could have driven myself to hysteria by thinking about all the things that might have happened. But they didn’t. And I didn’t.

Why didn’t I?

It’s really tempting to think about all of the things that might have happened, or should have happened, or that I should have done, or that someone else should have done. But unless I’m willing to take a lesson and move on, that kind of obsession only serves one purpose: It’s a great distraction.

I realized many years ago, when I was driving to work while seething at my husband for something, obsessing over him and what he had done, that when I obsess like that it’s usually because it is a great distraction from what’s really going on with me: What feelings am I avoiding? What part did I play in the situation? What action am I trying to avoid taking?

I hate that.

That kind of revelation is very humbling. And very useful.

Having learned that about myself has saved me a LOT of wasted energy over the years, and prevented a lot of escalated misunderstandings.

Now I notice

It has taken a lot of practice, but it’s much easier now to notice when I start to escalate and pull the plug on it, asking myself, “What’s really going on?”

(Although I admit I get a perverse thrill of fear from taking out the idea of rolling over on a spider and finding it in my hair and waving that scenario in front of myself several times so far today. Shivers.)

This type of obsessive distraction can cause a lot of problems, both in personal relationships and at work. Learning how to unplug it can improve both personal relationships and work situationsby improving my self-knowledge.

Do you ever find yourself obsessing over something? What do you use those tangents to distract yourself from? More importantly, how do you pull the plug on it?

Hm, what’s that itch on my foot?

Image: Pixomar / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Stuff That Knocks on My Brain and Demands to Be Let In (or Out)


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Off On a Tangent

This morning I was writing in my journal, something I’ve been doing most every morning for a while, clearing my head and gathering my thoughts for the coming day. But my mind kept drifting off on a tangent about a project that is waiting patiently on the sidelines, and I kept losing my Here And Now train of thought.

I finally gave up and spent some time paying attention to that tangent, noticing what was coming up, listening to it and writing it down. And I ended up with an unexpected essay that I can submit to one of the literary journals I discovered over the weekend, bringing me closer to my goal of submitting two pieces to outside publications by June 6.

Tangents and Discipline

What if I had chosen discipline this morning over following that thought? Or perhaps it would be more appropriate to ask, What if I had chosen a different discipline this morning? Because paying attention to the distractions and tangents my mind throws up is a discipline, too.

Noticing is a discipline, a process of learning by instruction and practice (from The Free Dictionary).

Ever since I was a child, when I have seen a road winding off around a bend I have wanted to follow it, thinking “I wonder what’s down there?” That is part of my curiosity. Noticing the tangents my mind goes off on and following them is like noticing a road I haven’t gone down and giving myself permission to see what’s around the bend.

Tangents vs. Hooks

One of the things I noticed about myself years ago is that when I get hooked on a tangent, like being mad at somebody, it is a very effective distraction from what is really going on. As long as I am focused on them, I don’t have to pay attention to what’s going on with me.

After getting over being embarrassed at myself, I started paying attention to those times when I go gleefully off on a tangent so that I can ignore what I’m really feeling, and started noticing what it is I’m trying to avoid. It’s not easy, and it can be very humbling, but it sure saves a lot of time and energy.

Those two kinds of tangents and distractions are very different. The first is like a visitor knocking at the door, wanting to share the cookies she just baked and have a lovely chat, but who gives up after a while if I don’t answer. The second is like a gossipy neighbor who bangs on the door, bringing over something fattening to eat while telling me juicy tidbits and keeping me from what I should be doing. One is an invitation, the other an intrusion.

I can accept either one – or not; I get to choose. But I have to use the peephole in the door to notice which type of visitor it is. And if I’m very good, I notice my motivation for letting either one in – or not.

Tangents, Ideas and Creativity

I could have stuffed this morning’s tangent back in its box and forced myself to concentrate. Later I probably would have bemoaned my lack of new ideas.

I wonder: Perhaps people who believe they are not creative get just as many ideas as “creative people” do, but they are just better at ignoring them.

Do you pay attention to the tangents your mind takes off on? Can you tell the difference between an idea and a hook? Do you choose one type over the other? If so, why? Or do you ignore them all?

Photo Credit: Ian Britton www.FreeFoto.com

Notice


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Once upon a time, we went car shopping. We went to the used car lot, looking for not one but two cars, since we were already looking for a second car when I hit a deer and totaled both our (only) car and the deer. (That’s another story.)

We finally settled on two cars – both of which happened to be from Mitsubishi. But at one point I asked, “Why aren’t there more Mitsubishis on the road? Why aren’t they more popular?”

The salesman (and my husband) looked at me as if I were from Mars and said, “Are you kidding? They’re all over the place.”

You know what? They were right. They were everywhere.

I had just never noticed them.

Until I started paying attention.

Paying attention

Rollo May wrote (in either Love and Will or The Courage to Create) that the root of the word “attention” is the word “to tend.” What does it mean to tend to something? It means “to care for.” Thus, he pointed out, people pay attention to things they care about. That seems like a pretty obvious statement, but it stopped me in my tracks. It made me think, and it has shaped my thinking ever since.

Noticing

What if I hadn't noticed the reflection in this traffic mirror? I would have missed a great photo.

In Creating Space for Wonder, I wrote about the importance of Noticing: “I can create space for wonder by paying attention to the world around me.” Since then, I’ve begun noticing that other people are writing about the importance of Noticing as well.

Havi Brooks of The Fluent Self wrote a wonderful piece about a recent exercise she went through with Dave Rowley of Creative Chai that was focused on Noticing. Then Karen Caterson wrote a delightful piece for the Captains Curious, in which she described a situation where Noticing that she had fears and an agenda made it possible to set those fears and agenda aside.

Noticing Noticing

It makes me laugh that I am noticing Noticing. It just does.

Maybe I am only noticing it because I am paying attention. I have started to care about it. Or maybe more people are noticing… things. And writing about it.

And one of the things I am noticing about this phenomenon is the relationship in these articles between noticing and freedom.

Noticing and Freedom

Yes, freedom.

Havi appreciated the freedom of just Noticing what was happening without any obligation to do anything.

Noticing her reaction to a situation freed Karen to handle the situation differently than she might automatically have done.

By Noticing what is happening around and inside me I am able to create space for wonder and free myself from the encroaching walls of concern and worry.

Noticing can free us from reacting automatically to situations.

Noticing can free us from worry and future-tripping. (Unless all you notice is what reinforces your reasons for worry. That’s a whole other topic.)

Noticing can free us to choose our next step.

We are free to choose what we notice, although sometimes life whacks us in the head and we can’t help but notice something surprising.

What have you noticed lately? Anything surprising?

To what do you pay attention? What does this tell you about what it is you care about?

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