Vantage points

Dear President Trump,

This morning Laura and I took the dogs down to Magnuson Park. I’ve told you about this place before since it’s one of our favorite go-to spots. Just to refresh your non-memory though, it was a Naval Air Station during WWII that was decommissioned for years and now has been transformed back into a mix of wetlands, trails, and playfields (it borders Lake Washington). Just this past year most of the former barracks were redone into low-income housing, including some managed by the VA.

On our walk we kept to the trails that weren’t being used by the very serious-looking 15k runners and so we were on the narrower, more interior ones. After a few minutes we came across a man with a camera on a tripod taking a picture of some Queen Anne’s Lace. It took me a minute to realize his camera was pointed down at the flower so I initially looked out across the pond to see if he had spotted a bird on a snag, or something like that. In the course of this horizon scanning I saw a very cool, very tall wispy tree with a delicate-looking nest that looked like it might have been made out of sticks from that same tree. The sky behind it was kind of a flat gray so the whole thing had a ghostly, ethereal look.

I didn’t show Laura right then because the guy was there and we had to hustle the dogs past him. Plus, I was sure I could show her at some spot just up the path. Well, I must have tried five different vantage points and it was like this huge, tall tree had just disappeared. It was very disconcerting. But me being me, it became a “what have you learned, Grasshopper?” sort of thing because for the rest of the walk I considered how incredibly dependent we are on our particular vantage points. Of course this is ‘Being A Human In The World 101’ stuff and not especially insightful or earth shattering, but I tell you, it was really strange to go just a few dozen yards up the path and look out over the same body of water and not be able to find that tree. And no one was playing peek-a-boo with me.

Whether I happen to be able to see a tree with a nest I want to show my partner is not of much consequence, but the reality that where one is profoundly shapes and edits what one sees has huge implications for whether and how we can see and understand each other – especially if we don’t know this. There was something about this experience with the tree that made this reality of place-ness and perspective less intellectual and more really real for me, which is why I’m bothering to tell you about it even though I’m having a hard time articulating why it feels so important.

It’s pretty late now (after 10) and I’m tired so that may be part of my struggle. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to do a better job. Just to let you know, though, we ended up doing an out and back so I got to show Laura the tree and its nest and she was duly in awe of its loveliness.

May we feel safe enough to consider how limited our singular viewpoints are.
May we be willing to challenge our myopia.
May we have the ego strength to get that we don’t get most stuff.
May we make peace with sometimes being inarticulate.

Tracy Simpson

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