Noticing, Appreciating, and Caring

At a time when the New England “winter”, so far, has been the warmest of my life, it’s been interesting seeing and experiencing things that had not been seen before – like types of ice that form on grass after rain, and patterns after thawing and re-freezing, or the crunch of a step onto semi-frozen soil, followed by steps that sink into soft-mud. 

Part of why I mention this builds from a way that I’ve come to think about the religious naturalist orientation – as including attitudes, in “taking nature to heart”, of noticing, appreciating, and caring. And, with this, I’ve been exploring the idea that the “noticing” might be a necessary starting point, or a key for becoming aware of things that this orientation can offer, and as one of the things that we can contribute to.

This can be a personal thing – 

as when, on a recent walk through woods that I’ve passed through for years, for the first time I noticed trees that had all of their leaves. I later checked and learned that there’s a name for this, “marcescence,” and that this is common for American beech, and I found a description of what happens and why at this link.

It can be a social thing – 

as when I’m out with a friend who’s an avid bird watcher and he sometimes cuts me off mid-sentence to say “Stop talking” and, with this, we stop and hear the varied calls of birds. 

And, in small ways it might contribute to some local or global actions, 

where, as we care and find ways to help others to also notice, greater appreciation of natural places can contribute to preservation.

This isn’t to suggest something that we should do, but just to mention something that we sometimes could do – and actively notice things of interest and help others to see them too, and add to awareness, appreciation, and enjoyment.

Todd Macalister

A link to a musical performance (Music Pick of the Month) and a poem, below, give some additional perspectives on this theme.



    Mindful, by Mary Oliver


Every day

    I see or hear


            that more or less


kills me

    with delight,

        that leaves me

            like a needle


    in the haystack

        of light.

            It was what I was born for —

                to look, to listen,


to lose myself

    inside this soft world —

        to instruct myself

            over and over


In joy,

    and acclamation.

    Nor am I talking

        about the exceptional,


the fearful, the dreadful,

    the very extravagant —

        but of the ordinary,

            the common, the very drab,


the daily presentations.

    Oh, good scholar,

        I say to myself,

            how can you help


but grow wise

    with such teachings
as these —

            the untrimmable light


of the world,

    the ocean’s shine,

    the prayers that are made

        out of grass?

Monthly Music Selection: Wouldn’t Have Noticed by Joy Kills Sorrow 


Todd Macalister