Janet Sheridan: Rare sightings

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Janet Sheridan

When I can’t see what others point out to me, why do they act as though I’m apathetic, irksome or dull-witted? I have trouble distinguishing distant, miniature objects. Does that mean I’m peculiar?

I don’t understand why my inability to discern far objects causes others to tear their hair and wail.

While they jabber and gesticulate, I do my best to locate the bird, animal, star, person or plant causing the commotion. I concentrate, pop my eyeballs, scan vigorously from side to side, up and down, round and round. I become woozy and wild-eyed in my frenzy to see, but never hear “nice try” or “better luck next time.”

Last spring, a great horned owl perched in our blue spruce for a couple of days. It announced its presence by hooting until we noticed.

“I can’t believe you don’t see it,” Joel said, “It’s there. Right there. There where those two parallel branches extend from the trunk. See it? Right there! THERE!!!”

Well, thanks, Joel. Repeating the same words at increasing volume while waving your hands around like a whirligig is extremely helpful.

Finally, the wise bird noticed my plight, pitied me and flapped its wings until I found it. When I saw its magnificence, I understood Joel’s excitement.

My problem with seeing wildlife is persistent. When my family moved from Utah to Lander, Wyo., everyone in the car exclaimed over herds of antelope bounding with grace and spirit on the horizon.

After long minutes of silent scrutinizing, I thought I had one in sight and marveled aloud at its speed. Sharp-eyed Blaine snorted and announced to everyone that I had sighted a squashed insect on the window.

When I moved to Colorado, I thought Joel had a snipe hunt in mind when he insisted there were mountain sheep along the interstate near Georgetown.

For years, going to and from Denver, I wondered what character flaw made him want to belittle me. Then, one bright day, an old ram stuck its head over the cement barricade on the side of the road and stared at me until I noticed. Now I’m the first to sight the creatures — even when they’re not there.

And why do so many of the games people play involve balls you have to track? I’ve never heard anything as useless as the advice echoing around baseball diamonds everywhere: “Keep your eye on the ball!”

How, pray tell, does one do that?

I used to picture an eye, stuck to a spinning ball, dripping Elmer’s glue, hurtling toward me.

Another inanity yelled by coaches and P.E. teachers: “Watch ‘er into your mitt, Janet, watch ‘er in.”

Excuse me? I lost track of the ball when it left the pitcher’s hand, long before the batter belted it my way. My softball career consisted of standing in center field hoping the inning would end before a ball headed in my direction.

I’m always last to see stars and constellations, even when peering through a telescope during a college astronomy class.

While others sighted Vega, Orion and Cassiopeia, I wrestled with my telescope and prayed for cloud cover. The instructor sighed, and moved on.

So, tired of arousing impatience and ridicule in others, I’ve taken up lying. After a suitable interval of searching in vain, I exclaim, “Oh, I see it!” then quickly follow with a generic comment spoken sincerely: “Wow, amazing, isn’t it? I can’t believe it.”

I think Joel has caught on. He’s begun asking pointed questions about the bird I claim to have located: “Is the ring around its eye yellow or white?”

Well, how the hell should I know? I can’t see it.

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