The View From Waverly: Bottoms Up!

Curiosity is standing on a moment’s edge, sharp with uncertainty, and deciding the leap is worth the risk. Staying curious closes the door on the known and opens us to the thrill of exploring familiar territory as if it were the first time.

When the “world is too much with me,” I escape to Waverly pond and park—in my mind’s eye ever idyllic—once there, I believe I will regain myself, and I do, but never in the way I anticipate. For when I am at Waverly, curiosity shoves aside all of what I am so certain, and no matter what happens, the view is new.

Life goes on at Waverly, impermanent but not imperfect. It is a distinction well worth remembering for nature does not summon the past to understand or to avoid the present, no matter how daunting or mundane the moment might be.

Nature just is, unfolding in every moment, perfect and precise, providing another perspective, different from the moment previous and unlike the one yet to come. Nature is curiosity sustained.

As I look across the waters of Waverly, there is not a single snowy egret or Canadian goose to be seen but the waters of Waverly are not as I have seen them–ever. Sediment, rust in color and seemingly the texture of sawdust, covers most of the pond.

Among the Muck 0314

Its red clay banks are deeply scarred by what was once roaring rivulets of seed pods and dead grass. Day long rains swept and splintered pine needles into fragments of themselves. Needles, pods and grass—a winter’s barge–now float.

Spring blossoms are sporadic, seemingly uncertain. Most trees stand bare, witnesses to a winter that seems in no hurry to leave. So far, spring is days of rain and weeks of gray. I do not know Waverly in this kind of spring. It is not what I want to see.

In response, my mind’s eye returns to Waverly idyllic, as if to wait out the moment that I have. I actually close my eyes on the nature that is for the nature I seek.

Standing on the edge of such a moment is a first for me at Waverly, and I open my eyes with a start, having heard nothing but having sensed something. It is the wonder of the world, whether at Waverly or wherever, that in the instance of knowing one thing, something entirely new reveals itself.

In this moment, it is the bobbing bottom of a duck amid murky waters, oblivious to winter’s floating barge. The duck rights itself, churning through the old as if it were new.

Almost bobbing ducks 0314

Once again, the duck is bottom up, now joined by yet another duck, also bottom up. For more than a while they are content within the muck, swimming one way and then the next, sometimes in circles, seemingly content in waters that are new yet the same.  Ultimately, they swim beyond winter’s barge to open water.

So often, the unknown is merely a new perspective on an old situation, one that seemed so ripe for escape. Escape takes us only to where we have been as we have been. Staying curious allows us to meet the moment’s edge, perhaps bottom up, completely unsure of what that may mean but confident that these waters offer life in yet another way.

Swimming Away 0314

18 thoughts on “The View From Waverly: Bottoms Up!

  1. Love how you track yourself with so much awareness here, Karen. Closing my eyes to the present moment used to be a habit. I’m trying to break it. I love how you woke yourself up and saw the wisdom in the moment, “bottom up.” Thank you for the reminder. I just read Krishnamurti talking about freedom in a similar fashion to how you define curiosity. There is no past or future in freedom, no story, no relations. We are alone when free, yet we are all one. {{{Hugs}}} Kozo


  2. The natural world is completely unsentimental. The “now” consciousness we strive so hard to achieve, and manage only fleetingly is all there is in the life of a pond, or a forest or a clump of weeds growing by the roadside. There is no nostalgia for other Springs, or hope for the summer to come, just the now of sunlight and wind. I so wonder what that state would feel like. .


  3. Another wonderful post – reminding me, too, of Kenneth Grahame’s book; the point where Mole first saw the river and was carried away by the magic of it, the potentialities. A re-conceptualisation of his life, and I guess that’s the theme of your thoughts here, too. It’s intriguing how often we can find inspiration for looking in new ways at what, otherwise, is the everyday. But I think it’s important that we do – and I suspect a lot of people, often, do not.

    I’ve been very low-profile online these past few weeks, embroiled on a project which is drawing to a close…and about which I’ll blog, when all’s done. Also with a few unknowns; I don’t know where that will lead. (I kept my blog going via the old editorial standby of having posts stacked up, but I’ve been busier than I have been in a long time. More so, in fact, than I’m comfortable with, but to be stretched is always good in the longer term.)


    • Anxious to hear about the project, Matthew. I was also thrilled that your Illustrated History of New Zealand is now available as an e-book. I have been looking forward to it. I agree that really being stretched is a benefit but it is tough when one is immersed in the middle of such a stretch.

      There is so much in the everyday that inspires to the point of being magical; every time I remember that, the world expands. It never fails and in that is the hope for the human race for each one of us has the ability to experience such magic. Of course, there is the matter of looking in the first place. As always, thanks for your thoughts.


  4. This is my first visit to your blog. What a wonderful conversation; each comment adds nuance to the definition of curiosity. In my experience our need for certainty can only be answered by our greater need to explore, to risk, to live with hope and expectation. Looking forward to our ongoing dialogue.


    • Welcome! Yes, the conversation on this blog is one of the great joys of my life. I agree that exploring and taking risks are what makes our lives rich and full. Our world expands as does our perspective. Again, welcome.


  5. For it has been a long winter this year. I do feel like one of those ducks in your photo-essay, almost blissfully aware of all else except the joy of dabbling. Once again, beautiful words. That last photo captures the essence of movement — and hope.


    • Thanks, Beth, and yes, winter has been long for all. As for photos, I made several attempts to get a bottom up but it was not to be. The waters of Waverly are in flux this year, maybe because of winter and maybe just because…. Thanks for the lovely comment.


  6. “Staying curious allows us to meet the moment’s edge, perhaps bottoms up, completely unsure of what that may mean but confident that these waters offer life in yet another way.” Karen, your post is filled with these kernels. Makes we want to take up needlepoint! “CONFIDENT that …” Isn’t that always what keeps curiosity alive. Another timely post for me. Thank you.


    • So glad you enjoyed the post, Janet, and that I have inspired needlepoint is a first! Thank you such a lovely comment. Also, am looking forward to reading your memoir. The “deleted scenes” on your blog are wonderfully rich examples of your life in the Peace Corps. Glad to hear your book is at your publisher’s.


  7. I am reminded of Rat’s song “Ducks’ Ditty” in Wind in the Willows, where he says:

    All along the backwater,
    Through the rushes tall,
    Ducks are a-dabbling,
    Up tails all!

    Also, I saw this post in Psychology Today’s blog and thought that you would appreciate what the author says–only you have said it more deeply and more poetically over many posts:


    • I have not read Toni Bernhard for awhile so I really appreciate the link. It is quite timely, and I did not know she had a new book out. It seems time for me to read her, again. Thanks, Ann!

      P.S. It occurs to me that I did not respond to your Wind in the Willows reference but as well, thank you, for Kenneth Grahame’s work is a lifelong favorite. Also, there was something in the back of my mind about duck bottoms but I could not “reach” it. Perhaps this was the reference.


  8. I really love everything about this post, Karen! Curiosity is something I have to keep bringing myself back to over and over again. This line in particular offered me some very rich food for thought: “So often, the unknown is merely a new perspective on an old situation, one that seemed so ripe for escape.” Thank you!


  9. Another poignant and timely post, Karen. I have some exciting unknowns in my life now, and viewing them with curiosity (rather than occasional confusion or concern) makes primo sense. Waverly sounds divine!


    • Curiosity always gives us a fresh perspective for it does not allow us the “usual view,” and I have come to believe that every time I see as if for the first time, the world revealed is so much more. It happens every time. Also, I am so excited for those unknowns you have shared and always, I am in your corner.


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