Observation can be taught

As a small child my father would take me for a walk along the beach. We would talk about what we saw, think of stories to explain the rhythm of the waves and collect seashells. I would wear these adorable brown velvet dungarees that had a little pouch pocket in front. The dungarees would only be worn on these trips so when my parent (mom or dad) got me up early and took these out, I would start dancing on my toes in excitement. By this time my brothers were twelve and ten and not interested in a beach walk, so I got my father to myself. Glorious.

My father taught social work at our local university, volunteered for many charities and was very active in the community. Time spend with him was usually shared with one of these causes, but during our beach walks he was totally mine. I remember one of these Sunday mornings with a clarity I wish I had when I now look for my keys or try to remember something that happened last week.

It was winter, so there was a crispness in the air. He woke me just before dawn, with a small backpack with coffee and sandwiches already packed. When the dungarees came out I let out a small squeal, to be told gently that mom and one of the boys had been up half the night with a stomach bug and that we needed to let them sleep. I nodded solemnly and proceeded to be as quietly noisy as only a five year old could be.

We sat in the sand dunes and watched the sun come up. With each colour change in the sky my father pointed out one more thing that I would not have noticed. The way the shadow in the rocks changed as the sky brightened for example. What an eye for beauty that man had. He made me see that even guano patches on rocks were majestic if you only opened your eyes


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