words & images cila warncke

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.
— Henry David Thoreau

Close ranks of slim aspen line the trail, silver-veined leaves flashing in the morning breeze. Bird's swap melodious gossip. The Tetons shrug jagged shoulders at the blue, blue sky. Each time I stopped I promise Sarah, “This is the last picture.” Then we round a bend and I reflexively pause, paralyzed by beauty.

Taggart Lake stops us in our tracks. Clear as a glass spill surrounded by snow-streaked granite peaks. An image from a fairy tale. Water-skeeters dance on tiny ripples casting match-stick shadows on the shining pebbles below. We are breathing fast from the hike, pulling in lungfuls of air polished as a new blade. Way down the shoreline child of four or five wades in the shallows – too far away for us to hear his happy noises.

“Oh my gawd,” someone caws (the voice of one crying in the wilderness). “That kid's nekkid!”

Laughter and a kind of awe or bafflement bubble in me at the memory. And pity. Grand Teton National Park is a slice of holy perfection. It wrings my heart that someone went deep into that splendour and chose to see, and be disgusted by, a blithe, innocent little human body.         “That kid's nekkid” has become my personal shorthand for: Keep the I (eye) open.

As travelers carrying our own histories it's easy to only see what is already inside: habit, culture, custom, prejudice, expectation, assumption. To see something new is a choice, not a certainty. When I'm lucky enough to be in an unfamiliar place these eight words keep I open.

1.     Space: Be big enough to feel small sometimes

2.     Perspective: Explore the opposite of every angle

3.     Contrast: Look for the moments where worlds collide

4.     Quotidian: Cherish mundane, daily things

5.     Detail: Get close enough to see the fine lines

6.     Color: Let nature saturate your sight

7.     Surprise: Savor unexpected flashes of beauty

8.     Wisdom: Choose words that widen your horizon

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