Since I was a freshman in high school, I've never gone anywhere without a camera. Even when I attended my 40th high school reunion in Charleston, where I was once a boarding student at the prep school called Porter-Gaud, my old classmates (and I stress old) remembered me most for my camera. I guess the bottom line is this: I have always been a "looker."
Three things happened to me this week that inspired me to write about the art of looking. The first occurred when local Jimmy McIntire and I were heading back to my house after having lunch. I was driving down Alljoy Road when I noticed what looked like a squirrel that may have been nicked by a car squirming in the middle of the road. Slowing down, it wasn't a squirrel at all; it was a small hawk, wings spread on the pavement. We thought it was hurt, but we then noticed that it had in its talons a redheaded woodpecker nearly the size of the hawk itself. Spooked by my car, it took its catch and flew off. Now that's something you don't see every day!
Then later that same day, I went to catch some bait in a small pothole in the marsh near my home. When I got there, I noticed what looked like a dead deer surrounded by 20 or so vultures that were having a field day with the remains about 10 yards from me. I wouldn't say buzzards are beautiful birds, but the whole scene was so macabre I put down my net and just watched them fighting over rotting meat. I know that sounds weird, but seeing that I love the show "The Walking Dead" it shouldn't surprise you. Suddenly, something came whooshing right over my head, nearly scaring me to death. It was a mature bald eagle, and it landed right in the middle of the buzzards and began picking away at that deer. It didn't seem to matter one bit that I was sitting a stone's throw away. For the next fifteen minutes, I had the coolest up-close and personal encounter with that bald eagle. It will remain etched in my mind forever.
The last event occurred while I was fishing with McIntire and Ben Parker. The wind was howling out of the northeast as we sat huddled in my boat while flounder fishing. We all heard a noise that made us all look up at the same instant. Dropping out of the sky and coming right at us was this wood stork. What was so amazing was not that it looked like he was going to land in the boat with us -- it was his posture. His wings were cupped like a mallard duck coming into decoys and his long legs were dangling. As the 20 mph winds hit him, he used both his wings and his dangling legs to counter the wind and keep level flight. It was akin to watching a Boeing 747 with wheels down coming in for a landing. The grace plus the subtle corrections to both of his wings and each of his legs was incredible. We all agreed that we would likely relive those few seconds of watching over and over again.
Hopefully, I have inspired you to look and to see. Nature is so full of colors that can't be duplicated on any canvas and sights that are there should you take the time to look around. Hopefully you will start looking closer at the natural world we live in.
God does not subtract from the allotted span of a man's life the hours spent in fishing. Columnist Collins Doughtie, a graphic designer by trade and fishing guide by choice, sure hopes that's true.
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