Walk on the Wild Side

A little exercise about seeing suggested by Damon Knight in Creating Short Fiction


Walking on the path through the woods in my neighborhood, I wear a mask. The pandemic, you know. Since my glasses fog when I exhale, I take them off.

The normal markers of trees, rocks, and bushes are lit with sun splotches seeping through nature’s canopy. A three-foot owl, low to the ground, with a head of white feathers, draped with a thin, gauzy wreath appears around the bend of the path. As I near, I come to doubt it is an owl and the gauze has slipped away, but the white head remains … until the distance shrinks. Close in, I see a pile stack of fallen branches. The ends of two branches have been peeled of their bark. When the sun strikes them, they are brilliant against the dull brown-gray of the limbs from which they stick out.

The leaves of bushes before and beyond receive their own pattern of sun rays, and illumination which Thomas Young perhaps suggested in his double-slit light experiment. At first sight, at a distance from which I could not discern individual elements, they gave me a single gauze wreath.

Picture from walking trail. The green of leaves and dark trunks accentuated by sunlight so bright that unlit areas are shrouded in mystery. One dark area resolves into a deer.

My daily exercise became a journey into a mysterious world, only slowly resolved. Boulders that moved became deer.

The resolving magic of Renoir’s “On the Beach” became my walking partner.

Renoir's "By the Water" with images both lit and left for the imagination

“On the Beach” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Public Domain. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2161528

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