Eyes Wide Open
A few weeks ago, I finished reading Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus–a captivating personal account of the deep intelligence and emotional capacity of octopuses. I was totally surprised by Sy’s well-told story of her experiences with these overlooked and misunderstood sea creatures. I found myself looking at the calendar to see when I might fit in a trip to Boston’s New England Aquarium, where much of the book is set, to observe these animals that I had passed over, through a new lens.
The book and my reaction to it reminded me again of how many truly remarkable things exist that we so easily take for granted or ignore. Our sense of wonder, seeing the world as if for the first time, with an eye of innocence, is a gift that leads us to new ways of understanding and insight. This is how we grow as creative thinkers and makers.
Wonder has been the work of the JDPP Ensemble over the past year and a half. It is at the heart of In the Presence of Trees, in which we explored and created a series of seasonal performances with and about trees in parks in Greater Hartford.
The inspiration for this work came again from a book, this one by Suzanne Simard, Finding the Mother Tree. From Suzanne, I learned of the incredible communication networks that exist in tree communities supported by underground fungus. I learned that trees care for each other, send out missing nutrients to those in need, and have protective mechanisms for danger and ways to signal other trees of impending problems. The close connections that we established in our tree-focused performance work affirmed the vibrancy of everything I read about—my previous enjoyment of trees had barely skimmed the surface of what wisdom lies therein.
Books are to be cherished for what they bring to us in terms of insight and expanded awareness, and nature is an honored teacher to learn from and be amazed by if we look and feel and really listen and see.
As we find ourselves amidst a world that feels acutely challenging and gone awry—where culture wars, the Ukraine war, and now the horrifying images of the war in the Middle East seem to be tearing us apart. Now more than ever, we need to hold on to our ability to see the world with fresh eyes, no matter what.
We can, in the act of seeing the inherent beauty and intelligence of the earth, believe in the best of human nature. We must strive to rekindle hope and trust our ability to move forward and work for a better way—a way that addresses peace, kindness, and our common humanity.