26 May 2015

Who lives in your tree?

It is only recently that I heard about observing one tree during the course of a full day to learn who and what called its branches home. I wonder if you've done it? It is a delightful way to spend a day.

My family and I are currently spending a relaxing couple of weeks in Indonesia, and the past few days have found me happily ensconced on my recliner by the pool, cold water, sunscreen, sunglasses and a delicious pile of books on a table by my side. At the end of my garden is a tall coconut palm. If you look at the photo above, you'll see my view. It's a hard life, isn't it?

My tree is home to such a myriad of creatures - butterflies, brown, yellow, black and white. Without a field guide I can't even begin to identify them, but there are just so many, and to see them gives me great pleasure. Kupu kupu, they're called in Bahasa Indonesia -such a pretty name, I always think.

Early in the morning a shy long-tailed macaque scampers warily up the trunk to hide in my tree's canopy, whilst later as the sun rises higher, a family of delightful squirrels gambol together, their tails flat along the fronds behind them, not held high like their European cousins do, but behaving in the same cheeky fashion. Maybe it's because we don't have squirrels at home in Australia that I always derive such pleasure from their friendly, amusing antics, but I always delight in seeing them, wherever I see them in the world.

Tiny house geckos, called ciacak locally because of their noisy scolding call, and sun skinks, small and large, defy gravity, running straight up my palm tree's vertical trunk to hide. I understand how geckos grip vertical surfaces, but how does the sleekly plump skink manage this remarkable feat? With ease, it seems. It is said here that if a gecko calls while you're speaking, you're telling the truth.

Birds call my palm tree home as well - sweet pied fantails - our 'rusty-wheel' wake-up call, cheeky yellow-vented bulbuls, spotted doves, Pacific swallows, scaly-breasted munias with their slow, regular cheep cheep cheep, and their white-headed munia cousins. Swiftlets with their comically ungainly flight never land, but soar overhead. Whenever my feathered friends feel warm, they swoop down from their refuge to cool themselves in our pool, regarding it as their own giant birdbath, as I sit quietly by, hardly daring to breathe for fear of frightening them away.

I'm grateful to Charlotte Mason for gifting me, later in life, this gift of observation. Our children, learning from their early years have this strength naturally, but for me it was learned, and so I appreciate it all the more. Teaching our children to 'fully see' truly is a gift. Careful, intentional observation - it's a life long skill with its own rewards.

By degrees the children will learn discriminatingly every feature of the landscapes with which they are familiar; and think what a delightful possession for old age and middle life is a series of pictures imaged, feature by feature, in the sunny glow of the child's mind! The miserable thing about the childish recollections of most persons is that they are blurred, distorted, incomplete, no more pleasant to look upon than a fractured cup or a torn garment; and the reason is, not that the old scenes are forgotten, but that they were never fully seen. At the time, there was no more than a hazy impression that such and such objects were present, and naturally, after a lapse of years those features can rarely be recalled of which the child was not cognisant when he saw them before him.

Charlotte Mason Home Education p47-8

Observing a tree in Bali has been a joyful experience, but you don't need to be in Indonesia to do this study. Pick a day, pick a tree, pack a picnic and just observe. What can you see? Do birds visit your tree at different times of the day? Is it a refuge for lizards or mammals of some kind, or can you just see insects? Do birds visit? Or ants? Is there moss growing? Or ferns? When I observe trees in my garden at home, I don't see monkeys or squirrels, but I do see birds. I see that the magpie sings there early in the morning; the musk parrots visit in the warmth of the sun; the corollas and cockatoos rest there on their way home to roost on the riverbank at sunset.

What do you see when you observe your tree? Go and look, and then be sure to come back and tell me about it. Right now, I'm off for a swim.


1 comment:

  1. I am so thankful as well that Charlotte has begun to train me to really see. I feel like I had been walking around with my eyes shut for most of my life. I don't think that my skills of observation are fully developed yet, but I'm learning the habit of attention along with my kids and it's very fulfilling. Thank you for the idea of observing one tree for a day. What a lovely thing to do. I think we will do it in a few weeks when we're done with school for the year and have the time to be in our backyard, leisurely observing my favorite tree for the whole day. It's something I'm really looking forward to now.


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