Paying attention makes life enjoyable

Spending time up at the Caprock, scouting for a place to make a Project WILD fieldtrip. (That is a classroom-based, project-focused ecology curriculum), we came upon a forensics situation. Nothing to excite CSI Miami fans; this would be more appropriate to Animal Planet. Still, it starts one’s mind turning in several directions.

Peering over the edge of the cliff which is the Caprock’s main feature, I saw the lumbar spine and partial hindquarters of — too large to be an antelope, too small for an elk, and definitely an ungulate, so it must have been a mule deer. About twenty feet further down the cliff, where it must have washed, was the rest of the skeleton.

Did it just stumble off of the cliff, there where it recessed in? Highly unlikely — even the tough-minded cattle that graze in that area are hardly clumsy enough to fall off by accident. Chased by something, frightened by something, in a state of panic or perhaps even wounded, seems the most likely explanation. About 50 feet west of the recessed area, lay a couple of shotgun shells, large caliber.

Perhaps, at any rate, a solution to the murder mystery. I asked Mikayla what she thought, and even her 6-year-old mind was able to pull together the possible solution. Only the mule deer knows for sure, and his skeleton wasn’t talking.

It reminded me of a line from The Mentalist: “I’m not psychic, I just pay attention.”

Don’t get me wrong, I am not, in all circumstances, an observant person. I can walk into Albertson’s and spend five minutes walking around the area where the object I am seeking is located. Never once will I see the product.

However, ability to observe is all conditional. Like most of us, I respond to certain things that I have been trained to observe. Many of those things relate to outdoor situations or circumstances. Animal tracks, sounds in the woods, and certain other pieces of information are automatically seen or heard, or even smelled, and processed.

I cannot remember which end of the mall J.C. Penney’s is on, primarily because I don’t care enough to notice. This accounts for a lot of wasted time on shopping trips.

It smacks of multiple intelligences- the belief, proven almost beyond a doubt, that we are naive to talk of one kind of intelligence. There are many ways of being smart.

The alarming part, for me, is the number of people I encounter who don’t pay attention to, well, anything. They are equally unobservant no matter where they happen to be. As it happens, they are also often the people who lack cues on how to respond in social situations.

Perhaps it is the hectic pace of our times, the preoccupation with technology, or the microwave mindset that we are apt to fall into.

Perhaps it is inevitable, given the amount of information that one has to process; we have no choice but to pick and choose.

Nonetheless, life in general is far more enjoyable if, at least sometimes, you pay attention.