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Observance and Occurrence
by Mary E. Borra Bookmark and Share

There is certain coolness to the air now that fall has been properly disposed of. I see a tree or two that still hang onto their leaves in full armor, shrugging off every wind, but soon these strong soldiers will vanquish and stand sullen, naked to the world, inner skeleton exposed. These seasonal changes are commonplace in the Northeast United States and I wish I knew more about climatic occurrences in other places. A bit of travel for my future, a healthy body to carry me and enough to pay for the trip are some of my only plans.

For now, I accept these local gauges in nature and carry a secret want for others to close the circle between observances and occurrences. By observances I mean the tiny perceptible changes in the season, the shadows and mist, the leaves and air. The occurrences are the changes of the season, the tilt of the earth, the patterns of migration and effect on our lives. To bring full circle, I think humans in today's busy world could take more time to feel the subtle changes of the season and celebrate each as a great show of nature.

A few hawks, floating overhead, call out in shrill cries and I look up to smile at their presence. I'm glad for their hearty return to the local environment. This observance of the increase in their population would not be possible without strong regulations in pollution control as an occurrence first. Road crews picking up garbage get my prayers each time I see the hefty bags and debris waiting for proper disposal, some corporate effort responsible for the teams of volunteers to take this duty. Observances and occurrences, working together to make my roadway cleaner, more hawks in the air and a broader smile on my face.

Observances of nature are randomly found; our brains have us relate what we see to our lives. This connection isn't asked for, it happens like magic. Our thoughtfulness in passing the time in awe of nature is to our credit. Like purposely smiling so the smile is returned is so automatic and so predictable and yet so subtle, we forget we are doing it. We need to do it more often.

Art and nature are so closely aligned that the most celebrated architects used reference to and inspiration from nature to design the best of buildings, skyscrapers, museums and residences. Frank Lloyd Wright created summerhouses for philanthropists and patrons locally that cut into the woods and rocks, surrounding waterfalls, driving deep the connection between the human invention and nature. How did he ponder the difference of building and nature; mortar and wood smoothly imbedded into rocky crags or did he see no division. That one did not affect the other is opposite from what he taught us with our eyes. Even the furniture inside the houses he created were marriages of wood and iron, function and art.

We all need to be mindful of observances and occurrences of nature in our daily travels. Partners in keeping nature at our call, using the thundering resources but preserving the path of a stream, building a dam for power, but insuring the tiny ecosystems surrounding the mud and silt will not diminish once the bulldozers leave is our responsibility as people walking this earth. In our area we have a call for green buildings, design and implementation. If, in reconstruction or new construction, a garden or buffer in nature can provide a noise barrier or lunch habitat for workers, if a wall of windows can be directed more effectively for heat and cooling costs, then it co-exists with nature and humans and the environment benefit.

I watched a man using a gas powered lawn blower to sweep wet leaves from his concrete driveway. The job could have been done more effectively without wetness and just as well with a broom. Eventually the winter winds would carry the leaves away, composting and crushing the dry stems into minute particles but suburban homeowners want clean walkways. It is just as well that we don't slip on the wet leaves, prettier not to see the build up of nature or track it into our homes. But there he was using more gas and time with the blower while I watched. The scene was fraught with boredom and habit; his occurrence and my observance.

The sidewalks on that same day at the school were like bad woolen sweaters, each long sleeve of gray area was spiked with red and brown oak leaves, hiked and curled in the coolest air we have had this season, the air a full mist and drizzle. I ran to avoid my glasses getting wet but still saw the fuzz on the giant sweater in front of me as I avoided those low spots where the leaves were sticking, occasionally jumping and smiling and counting my blessings in leaves.

There is nothing you can do about the big stuff in nature, storms, disasters, unpredictable rampages of wind and weather, but there is so much to be observant about on a smaller scale, so much to appreciate. Human nature is to use tiny, subtle expressions in an animalistic sense to guide us, to protect us from the elements, to warn us of danger. If we allow ourselves to sensitize to the calling of a bird, the smells and sights around us, the expressions on our faces, we adjust to nature and can relax with it.

Even in an office environment, we can observe small occurrences and appreciate our own natural selves. For example, watch how we press the elevator button, the backhand or the direct push. Do you use the dab or the poke? Who else as they enter the elevator slams the button the hardest, which have the chunkiest bracelets to hear against the panel, who has the touch to make the mechanism go faster? Which passengers look up passively at the numbers for the floors to indicate where they are in life at that moment, as if there were some strong magnets holding their attention? Who speaks, who is afraid to speak, what was the music playing while we rode on our fifteen second, intimate trip in an enclosed shell together? Why didn't we take the stairs? Who cares? The same nonsense is running through all passengers' brains at lightening speed, some conversing, and some avoiding stares, but we share the ride the same as we share this earth.

Observances and occurrences some of which we can control, some we cannot. But it is how we think about things, how we act that makes a difference. Contributing to a life, helping a person, not hurting the environment, cleaning things up, saving energies, adding some caring, learning something new, passing information along, listening to a call, and for me, a big thrill - going up on the down elevator just for fun!

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