Ah, now that's a terrific blog post title.
I'm sure it will generate lots of hits on Google searches as the masses interested in these (obviously) closely related subjects will be led to this bloggish musing on the nature of focused concentration.
Such was greatly in evidence today. Not from a Homo sapiens, but from a Canis familiaris – our resident house dog, Serena.
It's often said that life should be lived to its fullest.
I thought of that adage frequently from about 12:10 to 1:30 pm this afternoon, as I spent well over an hour of my steadily shrinking remaining lifetime looking out the window of a central Oregon cabin as Serena stalked a chipmunk with astoundingly measured steps.
I started to make a video of the scene, but soon realized that with a ten minute limit my You Tube upload would basically look like a single still: a chipmunk perched on a Ponderosa stump linked eyeball to eyeball with a mixed breed dog (half Lab, half Shepherd) whose patience and ever-so-slow stalking movements would put the most advanced Tai Chi practitioner to shame.
The motions of this You Tube dog are similar, but Serena beat the canine paws down on exquisitely refined inch-by-inch sneaking toward a prey.
Which seemed to be engaging in some sort of chipmunk'y reverse stalking – not dashing for its hole when Serena got almost within leaping distance, but continuing to sit on its stump with a relaxed disdainful attitude of "Dog, what dog? Oh, that creature over there that thinks it's moving so slowly I don't notice it, ha, ha, ha!"
On the other side of the window from the stalking scene were four human beings mesmerized by the super slow motion show being put on by the two animals.
It taught me how interesting an 80 minute display of dramatic tension – with hardly anything happening – can be. The climax hardly matters, compared to what came before, but I'll share it anyway.
Apparently another chipmunk uttered an alarm call, and the being-stalked chipmunk dashed into a hole at the base of the stump (where surely it had been planning to head the whole time, just waiting for the right moment).
There's no television at our cabin. So at one point, as we stood before the large kitchen windows, I said "This is what passes for Camp Sherman TV."
As with Camp Sherman, Oregon, so with a rural area outside of Lexington, Kentucky. In a different sense.
There I was told by my wife's relatives that watching an outdoor fire is called "Kentucky TV." This being exactly what we were doing at the moment, I understood the appeal of that absolutely free programming (aside from the cost of a few chunks of wood, newspaper, and a match).
A couple of nights ago we enjoyed the same show in Camp Sherman. As with the dog stalking, not a whole lot went on for the hour or so while the wood burned down. But it was endlessly entertaining – watching the flickering flames doing not a whole lot.
Focus. Concentration. Being in the moment, no matter how much or how little is happening.
Why is this so easy for dogs and chipmunks? And for people in altered states of consciousness, like when they're sitting around a fire on a warm summer night? Or hosing cannery pulp into drains under the influence of a post-midnight Benzedrine?
Those little white amphetamine-filled pills were what got me through an otherwise shitty job at a San Jose cannery during one of my college summers.
My night shift was cleanly divided into two halves: unhappy and happy, the demarcation being when, after a "lunch" break at 3 am or so, I'd pop a bennie into my mouth.
Ah, what a difference some amphetamine would make! Sometimes my job would be to put on a rain suit, stand under the conveyor belts on which fruit pulp was dripping, and use a high pressure hose to direct the pulp into drains.
I hated the job pre-Benzedrine. Afterwards, I loved it. It was endlessly fascinating to train the water just so, artfully directing the spray to maximum pulp-washing effect. (Others, like W.H. Auden, have applied Benzedrine toward more creative pursuits.)
I'd also use Benzedrine as a study aid for sleep-inducing classes like Statistics. I remember preparing for a test where I could have read about T-tests all night, the normal curve and levels of significance being so astoundingly interesting.
Just like inching your way toward a chipmunk for almost an hour and a half can be, if you're a prey-obsessed canine. Or like watching an outdoor fire can be, if you're with pleasant company (which can be only yourself), the air is warm, and the stars are bright.
Simple pleasures, drug aided or not, often are the most satisfying. Frequently we forget this in our quest for the next exciting thing, as we're multi-entertaining our way through the day and night.
I'm sorry I didn't get a video of Serena stalking a chipmunk. Next time.
It could easily be the basis for a mini-book: "Everything I Need to Know About Life I Learned From My Dog Stalking a Chipmunk."
OK, the title could use some work. But it's probably more marketable than: "Everything I Need to Know About Life I Learned by Popping Benzedrine in a San Jose Cannery."