The dream, of course, was always in place. A tiny wooden fortress, a look out, safely nestled in the branches. A rope ladder to be shimmied and then quickly hoisted aloft. At last I’m here! In my dreams my knees curl talon tight around a branch. I am an owl, solid and solitary amidst my branches quiet, contemplative and ever so watchful. My eyes grow wide and my heart swells. A sharp intake of breath. The world is spread before me as a summer picnic, soft and ripe and full as a sun warmed peach. I feel I can reach out and touch it, yet the distance flattens and somehow makes the whole feel close. I am up and above and at one with the world.
So many years later but in a way, I am finally here up high, enrobed clouds. There is no rope ladder but still this little room is stilted upon a high perch, walls of windows welcoming the world outside, framing images that continuously dart and swirl like a pinwheel. I am level with the crowns of the surrounding trees but in their majesty there is no sense of kingly distain. Their gnarled arms reach out, surround and embrace me. I am soaring, sweeping through the air! The wind ruffles the leaves like butterflies tethered to their perch. I always crave that arboreal embrace.
If I stay very still I can feel the trembles from a susurus of sound, layers of hum one on top the other, of birds, of insects, even the somehow comforting lull of distant traffic, rising up to my perch.
This is where I want to be.
In his lyrical introduction to the equally exquisite The Peregrine by J.A. Baker, naturalist and writer Robert Macfarlaine speaks of katascopos, a Greek word referring to the supremely lucky “looker downers” who possess the view reserved only for the gods—or the birds. Or those who scramble up mountain peaks. Or perhaps those who dream of perching in tree houses.
I don’t think of this as an omnipotent god-like view at all. Rather it feels remarkably generous and expansive to see all spread before me, the view wide and open and limitless. This is not just what I want to see. It’s what I want to feel.
But soon enough I’ll descend once again from up high, gather up my papers and books and bags, to trudge through my day, jangled and jinked.
So to the question: how can one’s spirits soar while one’s feet remain rooted firmly to the ground? The answer, like some of the most beautiful things, is both clear and simple.
Quietly look and see. Quietly listen and hear.
Instead of seeing the leaves shiver and tremble in anticipation of a coming storm I’ll try to catch the momentary blink of uncertainty that shades someone’s face before they speak.
Instead of struggling to discern the tweets and twitters of the early rising birds, I’ll try to truly focus on each word someone is saying instead of silently formulating my own wished for witty response.
What will I learn, what will I hear that I otherwise might miss? If I try, can I then bring my marvelous treehouse down to earth, the most beautifully wondrous aspects of katascopos to the every day?