It happened during halftime of a Texas State men’s basketball game when a man entered the arena with a dog.  The Yellow Labrador Retriever led him down a flight of steps, sniffing right and left as he went.  Occasionally, the man stopped to shake hands with acquaintances while his companion obediently waited by his side.  “C’mon, Bucket,” he said to the dog. “This way.”  As they descended the steps, students lifted their heads up from their cell phones.  Word quickly and excitedly spread, “Look! Look at the dog!” Within this shift of interest—from phones to a dog—it dawned on me that no matter how advanced technology becomes, it can’t compete with the animal kingdom (or nature for that matter) in capturing our attention and making lasting memories.

No dog tricks were required to notice Bucket. No jumping through hoops, laser light show, or walking on hind legs were needed for his introduction.  Rather, it was simply the slow and methodical meandering of four soft paws that had us all curiously drawn to the dog’s purpose. Why was Bucket here? Tap the man on the shoulder, ask a few questions, and before you know it, word has spread that Bucket is a 2-year-old K9 detection working dog who has been trained to identify 16 scents used in making explosive devices. But as impressive as his background is, that’s not what intrigued us at first sight. What excited us and made us smile was his mere presence.

In a similar setting, I once attended a San Antonio Spurs basketball game when a bat entered the arena.  Its seemingly erratic flight sent it all over the court, often coming close to the players. Of course, the bat displayed no obedient personality, but everyone was fascinated, and quickly caring less about the game itself. The bat’s unpredictable movements kept us inquisitively engaged.

*          *         *

We all know the feeling of acquiring something brand new like a car, TV, cell phone, or a computer.  That initial infatuation—so clean, unscathed, and seemingly perfect within their flawless designs.  We handle them with utmost care, like rare artifacts that will fall to ruin if we don’t.  But time passes quickly, and soon we get so accustomed to their function that they become nothing more than objects of service.

In a world that expects advances in technology, there is no going back to earlier versions of computation, graphic display or engineering.   Either you continue to build faster, sleeker products or you pay the price for not having met people’s expectations.

And then there is the constant of nature that requires no innovation to attract our attention. We are forever intrigued. Wasps building their nests the same way they always have. The Monarch butterfly migration repeats itself century after century.  A field of golden Nebraska wheat swaying in the breeze.  The heavy grumble of thunder following a lightning strike. A dog named Bucket.  Nature plugs along at the same pace it always has, and yet it is what truly enthralls us. In a world that demands innovations and technological advances, given the choice, it is the unchanging world of nature that holds our memories best.

*          *          *

A man drives his brand new, fully-loaded, 2-door black Acura through the streets of a Colorado mountain town. The car is nimble, handling perfectly. The sound system punctuates the machine’s interior with a bass that powerfully thumps as if the man were inside the artist’s recording studio. He runs his hand over the leather upholstery, totally in awe of the car’s craftsmanship. Everything is simply too good to be true.

But then, he sees a cluster of brake lights ahead of him, and all traffic comes to a stop. He turns the music down, and looks ahead to figure out what the issue is.  There are no police cars or fire trucks. No signs that a fresh accident might have occurred. Not even a stranded motorist with a flat tire.

Then he sees it, and it all makes sense.  As if out for an afternoon stroll, an elk takes its time crossing four lanes of traffic. It even stops to face the front row of cars, as if contemplating whether or not to walk across their hoods. People are taking pictures, pointing through their windshields. Several get out to find a clearer view. But everyone’s fascination is doubled as the elk begins walking between the rows of cars, as if it were conducting a security checkpoint inspection. The man in the Acura watches intently as the elk passes by his window. Seven hundred pounds of Rocky Mountain wildlife drifts by in nonchalant fashion, and then exits the street to disappear into the woods, leaving behind a grateful audience.

We are completely content with the constant of nature. It exists and excites us within its original version. There are no bells or whistles needed to improve it.

As the years roll by, the man’s experience will forever be remembered and passed on….

“So, we’re all stopped in this big traffic jam, and I have no idea what’s going on.  I had bought a new car that day.  It was an Acura.   Anyway, I then see this big elk, just taking his time like there was no tomorrow. He stops and looks at us.  And we’re all looking at him. And it’s like you could tell we didn’t want him to leave.  He then starts walking around the cars, and right by my window. I almost reached out to touch him. He was that much of a gift. I’ll never forget it.”

Copyright Ros Hill 2016


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