Connecting to nature using soft eyes, hard eyes

Published 5:45 pm Tuesday, January 5, 2021

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By Stella Payne

Master Gardener


Do you truly see your surroundings? Does your busy life jade your ability to see details acutely — in other words, glossing over what you see without really seeing? Admit it, we all do it at some point in our day.

So, what does it mean to use soft eyes, hard eyes, to connect to our natural world? It means a sweeping glance of the eyes over whatever you wish to survey. That’s the soft eyes. Then a detective eye for detail provoking the brain to embark on a journey of discovery and curiosity. That’s the hard eyes.

When I use my “soft eyes, hard eyes” technique to tap into my powers of observation, it connects me to nature in a fun, purposeful way. Instead of seeing a mass of green or brown, the diversity of nature comes alive.

I love to test the power of soft eyes, hard eyes by walking my native garden, or really any other area for that matter. I can observe a small section of land and come up with a bunch of species of plants and insects — and that’s just at ground level. I may not know all the names, but my soft eyes, hard eyes help me distinguish form and patterns, sparking my curiosity to investigate more.

It’s not about what you are looking for, it’s about what you see. And that’s the beauty of firing up those soft eyes, hard eyes to answer that question. See the picture of the milkweed. Most people would say, “What a poor specimen of a plant.”

Using my soft eyes, hard eyes I would begin to see a community of diverse members interacting, from herbivores that eat milkweed, to nectivores, predators, parasites, decomposers, and passersby. Food chains and food webs. Now, the sad plant is interesting and has my respect as a complex habitat for many creatures.

“Soft eyes” is used in the Japanese art of Aikido, meaning to widen one’s periphery in order to take in more of the world.

I challenge you to use this technique to bring more meaning, purpose and diversity to your world. Don’t become jaded with what you see. Keep your awareness alive. Use your soft eyes, hard eyes. Open up your world and pledge no glossing anymore.