Imagine whole worlds discovered in your own memories, entire universes kept away from cobwebs and dust within the confines of what you have gone through.
Then imagine spending two months diligently perusing those recollections, from journal entries and blog posts to every photograph ever captured.
And all in a quest to identify the marvels of nature to which you have been exposed.
Such imagining would bring you to the beginning of the journey I have only finished today. Or at least mostly finished.
On the day before my birthday, I set upon a quest to build a Life List. As I pointed out at the time, though,
[a] life list, as far as I’m concerned, should be a living document of all the nature one sees. All the life if you will, and that seems terribly important given the name. If birders want to control a list label, let them have “bird list” or “avian register” or “winged catalog” or something equally meaningful.
I wanted my Life List to be inclusive, encompassing of whatever nature could throw at me.
To that end, I swam to the deepest depths of my every experience. I read every journal entry I ever wrote, I read every blog post I ever digitally penned, and I viewed with great care every photograph I ever took.
The point? To remember, to fill my Life List with all that to which I have been exposed and of which I have tangible remembrances, meaningful tidbits of mental retention that allow me to identify and appreciate the experience.
And that is precisely what I have done.
Almost completely, by the way, although certainly not wholly inclusive of what is to come.
My life list now contains hundreds of species personally seen over nearly four decades.
While I’d like to say I plumbed the very bottom of my life for every scrap of wonderful discovery, such a statement would in fact be a lie. Certainly many images present themselves from childhood that would seem to offer yet another entry. Nevertheless, I would be remiss to include them for all the fallacy and wide-eyed wonder of a mind not yet capable of appreciating the difference between what one feels at the sight of a thing and what one sees at the site of a thing (site and sight used intentionally, thank you very much).
I still have many pages of notes to peruse in search of additional items to include. Likewise, I have a litany of pictures that need further investigation. All in due time, I assure you.
I still cannot help but be overwhelmed by what I’ve accomplished these past eight weeks. More importantly, I can’t help but be touched by my own careful notes and particular focus when it came to every new incident in which I found myself viewing a heretofore unimagined splendor offered forth by nature.
The fruits of that rediscovery now offer me a living inventory of what I hold dear, of what I want my life to be about: encountering the magnificence of what I fear will all too soon be lost, and more importantly, appreciating it enough to really see, to really comprehend what tickles my senses.
Lest you think me mad for the endeavor, allow me to explain a bit of why and what I did.
Most of me fears this soon will become a list of what was, not what is, and a litany of that which others will never see again. It behooves me on that basis alone to document what seems of the utmost importance personally and philosophically. If never to be seen again, let it be known here that something was seen at one time, was seen in its natural habitat when it thrived, or even only survived by its fingernails, but still when it lived the life evolution guided it to over immeasurable eons.
I wish not to include rudimentary imaginings about what might have been seen throughout my life, so only true identifications have been included.
Perhaps it was but the drive down a rural road with Mom and Dad when we spotted a coyote dashing across the blacktop in front of us, when I nearly sent Mom tumbling from the back seat into the front seat as I slammed on the brakes so I could stop and look while that dashing canine stood on the side of the road and looked back. We all flattened our noses against the windows on the driver’s side so we could get a closer look.
Or perhaps it was standing in Puget Sound during a business trip to Bellevue, Washington (a satellite city of Seattle), when I spied a pod of killer whales dancing in the depths and breaking the surface with their antics, and there I stood with their reflection playing in my eyes as I pondered how lucky I was to see such a thing, what with the young and old, the experienced and the juvenile all swimming in concert where so many take them for granted as they drive from place to place.
Or perhaps even still it was growing up in a house not far from where I live now with a massive pecan tree and a lively peach tree growing in the front yard. We climbed that pecan tree more often than I can admit, and equally we enjoyed the bounty of that peach tree every year in cobblers, pies, cakes, and all manner of what at the time seemed extravagant uses of a simple fruit.
Or—and damn me for thinking of it—perhaps again it’s the grand weekend in Oklahoma when all manner of ticks covered every outside surface, each of them perched upon chair and limb with front legs outstretched, each brown little arachnid immediately responsive to the lightest of breaths.
Or in the simplicity of the cosmos, perhaps it’s as common as the flitting moth dashing by as I stand on the patio bathing myself in seasonal beauty, the armadillo marching by as I enjoy my morning coffee, the deer I pause for as I leave the family farm, the birds nesting in the tree right outside my bedroom door, the woodpecker I notice as I walk about the lake where I live, or the spider building a web in a solitary corner of my living room.
The point being this: my Life List is compiled from reality, the product of nearly forty years of living, a life full of happenings that ultimately included the desire to notice, to truly see that which rested before my feeble human eyes.
A living document if ever one existed, my Life List now takes shape within the confines of the reachable. It will grow unimaginably well within the confines of the expected, the wet and fertile ground of my quest to observe.
Now imagine if you were to be so diligent about realizing what your senses sense whenever you’re not asleep. Just imagine…